By Will Mancini
Years ago, I was an ordained pastor enjoying ministry in a rapidly growing church. You could say I was a “called” man, but I was not living from “calling.” How do I know?
Looking back, I see a man who always had something to prove and something to lose.
I maneuvered people to make things happen. I sought the visible and vocal affirmation of the people I taught. I grew jealous when coworkers thrived.
Something is driving our vocational motivations. For me it was not a deepening awareness of my special assignment from God. It was a soul drift that sought approval and used a local church ministry context to find it.
I like the definition of “idol” that goes, “the thing you add to Jesus to make life work.” Of course, the very nature of idolatry makes it hard to spot.
Before my marital crisis, I didn’t see my idolatry problem. I didn’t know how heavily I was relying on being an all-American guy with a beautiful wife and picture-perfect kids as an up-and-coming pastor to make my life work.
But failure is an effective teacher. And the classroom of life’s challenge schooled me in two ways.
First, the failure deepened my emotional connection to the gospel. I needed to know the person Jesus beyond the Sunday school categories and seminary-speak.
“Savior and Lord” he had been. “Alpha and Omega” I had preached. But He would become more—a Friend. A delightful kind of friend who profoundly liked me and wanted to be with me just as he made me.
Jesus came through—He stayed close to me and His love grew even sweeter.
Second, the failure challenged me to pursue what he put me on earth to do. Now that I was more secure as a human being and not just a human doing, I was free to find my calling.
I was now prepared to get the doing part of life right. After all, God does make humans to do; he commissioned us from the beginning to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill, to rule, to name, to serve, to generate life.
I was ready to grab hold of that “commissioned sensibility.” Some days, the raw, dry hope that God had made me to do something—even though it wasn’t totally clear yet—was the only thing that got me out of bed in the morning.
Today I can testify to the awesome power of life calling. Despite a chapter in my life that included a subplot I didn’t choose—bringing hurt, failure, and shame—the unfolding story of my life was being written.
How so? It was being guided by God’s dream for my life from before time. Yet at the same time, it was also being shaped by my proactive design. Each day through the mountains and valleys and even from the pit, a calling from God was present.
The calling always starts with his initiative, as he alone is Maker and Caller; He alone is the ultimate Guide. Yet, that call moves from response to response and from grace to grace until it is known truly.
Eventually, if we pursue it, the reason that God put us on earth works its way into our life each day. For me, that calling over time became clear, specific, and articulated.
It rooted me in very practical ways. It yielded a wonderful variety of fruit marking my life with optimism, hope, and vision.
It grew out of disciplined self-awareness and into vocational risk-taking. It became vastly more precious to me than any artificial, manufactured image, including the one I had lost.
My calling strengthened my identity, cultivated my confidence, powered my passion, and directed my dreaming. It kept me going and it kept me growing even through one of my deepest valleys.
That was then. Now add 15 years.
Each month gets better as a calling-conscious follower of Jesus. Today I live out my one life call through six different vocational “vehicles.”
I enjoy the autonomy, mastery, and euphoria of working in my sweet spot almost every minute of my day. I have a beautiful, supportive wife and four amazing children.
Although I’m occasionally distracted by material things, I can honestly say that after my first job decision at 21, I’ve never made a vocational decision based primarily on money.
Yet I have earned more than I ever planned for or even imagined.
WILL MANCINI (@willmancini) is the founder of Auxano, an organization that partners with ministry leaders and churches to assist in visionary planning. He’s the author of several books including Younique: Designing the Life that God Dreamed for You, from which this article was excerpted by permission from B&H Publishing Group.