“To play was to be,” said Yehudi Menuhin. “All the rest was rehearsal,” said Artie Shaw. “Nunc dimittis,” said John Coltrane.
Somehow we human beings are never happier than when we are expressing the deepest gifts that are truly us. And often we
get a revealing glimpse of these gifts early in life. Graham Greene wrote in The Power and the Glory, “There is always one
moment in childhood when the door open and lets the future in. “Countless examples could be added to these stories, but
they all point to another crucial aspect of calling—God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of
giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.
Giftedness does not stand alone in helping us discern our calling. It lines up in response to God’s call alongside other factors,
such as family heritage, our own life opportunities, God’s guidance, and our unquestioning readiness to do what he shows. But
to focus of giftedness as a central way to discern calling reverses the way most people think. Usually when we meet someone
for the first time, it isn’t long before we ask, “What do you do?” And the answer comes, “I’m a lawyer,” “I’m a truck driver,”
“I’m a teacher,” or whatever.
Far more than a name or a place of birth, a job helps us to place a person on the map in our minds. After all, work, for most of
us, determines a great part of our opportunity for significance and the amount of good we are able to produce in a lifetime.
Besides, work takes up so many of our waking hours that our jobs come to define us and give us our identities. We become
what we do.
Calling reverses the thinking. A sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career, and the main way to discover calling
is along the lines of what we are each created and gifted to be. Instead of, “You are what you do,” calling says: “Do what you
are,” As the great Christian poet Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote in his poem about kingfishers and dragonflies, “What I do is me:
for that I came.”
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