It was early Sunday morning and I was sitting on Sam’s porch reading and writing and listening to the Michigan rain, a welcome sound to my West Texas ears accustomed to the silence of prolonged drought. And as much as I’d enjoyed the weekend, I had a nagging question in the back of my mind. Why should I come to workshops like this when each time my takeaway is to keep doing what I’m already doing? If I have such a clear picture of who I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing, then what is my real motive for coming?
The accusing voice in my head says I’m only trying to build myself up in front of guys I like and enjoy and respect, that I’m trying to bolster my own ego, that I simply want to show off.
The reason that accusation is so easy to believe is because, like most spiritual attacks, it contains an element of truth. I want things to go well in my life, I want to know God’s calling, and I want to live it out in such a way the very visibility of my life encourages others to join me in the same search.
“You’re just showing off in front of your friends so they’ll think you are The Spiritual Guy who has it all together.” I hear that voice almost constantly. Until it gets tired and switches to this: “Sit down and shut up. They’ve all heard your shtick and don’t think your jokes are funny. All the cool guys have moved on to something else.”
How about you? What do you hear? What do your voices say?
I’ve learned enough about Satan’s attack to know it will come directly at us against our strengths. Which means, hearing those mental attacks is, in some ways, reassuring. For me, it reminds me I am doing what I should be doing: delivering my best to bring people closer to God. The attack itself can be the indicator I’m in the right place.
Still, knowing that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.
So attending a weekend workshop about understanding and developing God’s calling becomes an exercise of spiritual reequipping and reaffirming. Being with the other guys reminds me I am not alone in my search for God, or my search for calling and purpose, or my search for meaning.
Not only that, I’m certain I have so much more to learn. I don’t even want to be the guy who has it all decided. I want to be the guy who is continuously asking questions, attending workshops, searching behind closed doors, looking under rocks, and checking around the bend of a mountain trail. As much as it surprises me to say this, I want to be unsettled, uncertain, maybe even a little confused. I want to keep learning.
The main assignment for our weekend was to develop a Calling Manifesto, similar to a Life Theme. (I tend to use the word “Statement” over “Manifesto.” I’m not sure I can live up to a Manifesto.) It was surprisingly hard to do, even for contemplative analytical guys like me. It turns out, you can’t do it alone. You need help from other people who can see your life from a more objective viewpoint.
I also learned the reason why writing something like this had eluded me for so long. I was trying to write with adjectives, describing myself, when I need to write with verbs, describing what I should do. That was a big breakthrough.
Writing a Calling Statement is a worthy exercise. It can be a decision filter to help you know if all the things you’re working on are the best things, and it should help minimize those urgent tangents that steal your energy. And it forms a base of resistance against those scary voices in your head.
I left Ann Arbor with a clearer picture of my mission, and a Calling Statement (Manifesto) I could be proud of. Of course, I can’t leave it alone. I’ve already changed it a bit, and I’ll probably change it some more tomorrow. I expect to keep changing it for the rest of my life, but that’s OK. I don’t want a final answer for something as important as this. Here it is:
For this purpose I am here:
To dig deep and understand Significant Truths;
To synthesize those truths into teachable, usable, and meaningful applications;
To give away those truths by teaching, writing, and sharing with the full weight of my life;
To live those truths openly and transparently, bringing others in close to walk with me;
And to inspire and equip others to join me on this journey.
My heart-desire is:
To see a widening wake behind me of changed people who are changing the world.
To be honest, I wish this was shorter and more succinct but I don’t know what to take out. The reason I am including it here is the same reason I write anything - I hope you will share with me your own thoughts about your calling. Try writing your own statement. Give yourself a fighting chance against the scary voices in your head.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32