Journal entry 040512: Driven or called?

I often pull books off my library shelves, books that I read months or years before, and flip through the pages, searching for those sentences that brought me to a screeching halt the first time through, hoping they’ll do it again. A few weeks ago, I pulled Speechless by Stephen Curtis Chapman and Scotty Smith, and on page 132 I found this question delineated by fluorescent yellow highlighter: “What’s the difference between living a driven life and a called life?”

Just as I’d hoped, I’ve been chewing on that question ever since. I don’t think I have ever felt driven, or thought I was living a driven life; however, I increasingly feel called to change the world around me through writing and teaching and open living. And that calling, I suppose, drives me.

However, I suppose I can list the names of friends who will disagree about whether I live a driven life. They would say, “Yes, you do,” and maybe they’d be correct. I’m certainly compulsive about following a proven procedure, and stubborn about pushing ahead in spite of obstacles. For example, I hate giving up a scheduled run just because my knees hurt more that day, or a planned bike ride simply because it is 100 F. I resent either pain or weather assuming they can take over my life. If stubbornness can be the target of a driven life, maybe that describes me.

I think part of the difference between living a driven life and living a called life might be the difference between being pushed and being pulled. I feel pushed to do engineering work since that is my training and one of my best skill sets, but I feel pulled into writing and teaching, pulled by a force bigger than my own personal drive.

A driven life is often too cluttered. It's easy to get so busy we have no time to do the right things because we are driven to do so many things. Of course, that can be a simple issue of priorities and time management, but in the context of calling, I think men often fill their days with tasks to avoid finding their true self. If I hear a friend complain week after week about his life being too busy I think that's an indicator that he is caught up in a driven life rather than a called life. Men living in their calling don't complain so much about being busy because their busyness brings them energy and joy.

I also wonder if busyness is another way to avoid risk, to play it safe. Stay hyper busy, do the same things week after week, never have margin for new adventures, and life appears to be full and rich when it is actual thin and barren. Anytime I've stepped into the next layer of my calling, it was risky and scary. And I’ve had to leave behind activities that use to drive my schedule.

But there are things I feel so strongly, so deeply, I know they come from God. For instance, I love to - have to - teach and write and live life out in the open. One of the things I have never been able to stop doing my entire life is telling the story of what just happened - whether the story of a backpacking trip, the story of a Bible lesson, or even the story of reading Stephen Curtis Chapman. Anytime I go somewhere, read something, experience a new place, converse with an old friend, I expect to learn something. I expect to be changed. I expect to come away with a story to tell. Sometimes it takes months or years before I understand the story well enough to tell it, but until I find the story there will be a gap in my life.

So, back to my opening question: “What’s the difference between living a driven life and a called life?” Maybe I’m just haggling over definitions, finding distinctions where they don’t belong. But this I know: I no longer care to burn myself out doing things that lay crosswise to the grain of my soul. I want to live a called life.


QUESTION: What are you pulled into doing? Do you feel driving, or called?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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