Do you remember those times as a kid when someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? I sure do. It was a magical question that was filled with hope, opportunity, and excitement. There was no hint of fear, doubt, or worry. This was the time to dream and say whatever your heart desired. I don’t know about you, but I think it was right around the age of 12 I lost that excitement and the reality that “my dreams” might not come true.
“Honestly Kyle, I don’t think you have worked hard enough to become a professional.” Tears rolling down my face as I looked out the passenger window of my dad’s car. “You have a great skill, but to truly make it, to go to the next level takes discipline and practice, are you willing to give up everything to go to the next level?” I knew the answer to my dad’s question, I wasn’t willing. This might seem like my dad was being harsh with me, but up to this moment he had been my biggest support. And at this point in my life, I needed to hear the truth. He wasn’t saying no to my dream, he was bringing in the reality. And at the age of 12, I knew, I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball player. That was the moment I lost the feeling of being able to do whatever I want, and started to see the reality of where I want to go.
It’s taken me many years since that conversation with my dad to realize that having a calling is like that. It’s a long process that doesn’t come overnight. It is revealed to us in stages, long conversations, and practice. Finding your calling happens over time, not in a singular moment.
I’m probably not the best person to talk about calling, at least on paper. I have a degree in youth ministry. And yet, I work at a record label doing Digital Marketing. I have even worked in churches, but never in the youth department. I have spent more time building websites and writing marketing plans than planning youth retreats and playing games. And through this time I always felt like I was being patient, a time of growth and development was what I viewed it as. Never fully confronting my vocation as something different than what I studied in college. Until my 30th birthday started to approach and I asked the question we have all asked, “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
Vocation comes in stages. From the beginning stage of discovery, to when you finally become a maste of your craft, each opportunity brings about more time to learn, grow, be stretched, figure out what you like, and get better. I can look back at the opportunities I have had that seemed to be nothing more than a job or task and yet, when I follow the thread of the various stages of vocation, I can see how each opportunity was molding me for my calling. Like the time I had a summer internship at a youth conference where I managed backstage and programming. Or the time I was a middle school teacher and was challenged to come up with creative ways to communicate stories I heard long before.
Most of us spend more time thinking about vocation then working on our vocation. My friend Jeff calls this the stage of apprenticeship and usually lasts up to 7 years. It’s a time of growth and learning. It’s a time of figuring out what we are good at and what we don’t want to do. This apprenticeship time is quiet, sometimes lonely, and often times frustrating. The overwhelming feeling of not doing what you want to do seems to be the theme of this stage. Everything you do feels more like a task leading to frustration rather than an opportunity for the future. You do a lot of listening and watching rather than talking and doing. You wonder when your time will come? When will I be the one to lead? When will I hit my stride? Only to not find the answers.
Leonard Ravenhill said “the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.”
And living out opportunities is what we are doing. Opportunities don’t feel like steps to finding your vocation, but what I have learned is opportunities are the foundations to the calling that has been placed on each of us. They are the building blocks we step on as we walk through life. It’s easy to want to skip over these opportunities. To focus only on what gets us to our calling. But I would argue, each opportunity is a chance for us to learn about our calling.
In the times we are asked to do jobs we don’t want to do, we learn.
In the process of finding a job, we learn.
In the daily grind of work, we learn.
In the void of answers, we learn.
In the madness of others, we learn.
In the chaos of a project, we learn.
Every day is an opportunity to work on our vocation or calling. You could be wondering what you are going to do with your life right out of college, or your early 30’s wondering what you will do with the rest of your life. But when you realize that vocation comes in stages and each stage has a different theme and development, we can begin to see every single moment as an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop.
This changes the way we approach our work, and even more so, our life. If we will approach every day as an opportunity to redeem it for the future, we will be free to live a life of being in our vocation. For we are called to make the most of what we have been given. Not focus on the dreams of our future, but to live in the everyday moments we are presented with to get better, to learn more, to encourage others, and to do great work.
Vocation is not something we will ever obtain, but something we can strive after every day to find that what we are doing is what we were created to do. It all comes down to how you view your opportunities.