Calling. This is a term we hear used a lot these days in Christian circles, in artist circles, and even in political circles. We use the term widely and loosely with the assumption that others know what we mean when we use it. But do they? Do we even know what we mean when we say it? The best entrance to understanding the meaning of calling from my perspective is found in a section of C.S. Lewis’s masterpiece sermon, The Weight of Glory. If you have not read it, I cannot commend it to you highly enough.
The passage I am referring to is his description of the “inconsolable secret” in each one of us. Lewis gives us a vocabulary for something sacred in us, something so deep and so powerful we are most often unable to speak of it at all – the longing for our home country and for Beauty. It is the longing for our essential nature and condition from which we are now exiled but ever longing to return. Lewis writes in such a respectful and tender way about giving words to something so precious that we risk breaking our hearts if we look too openly or too long at it. Yet inside we each know that it is there: the longing that moves through our souls with each breath, the whisper of something beyond us beckoning us to come home, the call to something we can barely describe and lower our eyes at the thought of. This whisper of a world beyond here, this yearning to be something more than we are, is hallowed ground – sacred. It is not to be tread upon casually. In the quiet moments of our life, we know its voice. It stirs in us a holy discontent, an uneasiness with the way things are in us and in the world that now holds us. This understanding of calling is something I do not speak of lightly nor expect you to look at easily. Everything you are and everything that defines reality for you is at stake in it. Everything.
Being called in this sense is the first mark of being a citizen of another world, an unseen Kingdom, and made to live by that world’s standards rather than those of this world. As in all societies, citizens live and serve in various roles and capacities. When we whisper shyly to a friend or a mentor, “I think I am called to be a writer” or a dancer or a painter or a political activist, we are not simply saying what we think we are supposed to be here. We are saying something much deeper and more defining about ourselves and who we are made to be. We are saying what we are made for in a higher and unseen realm. That unseen realm is truer, in fact, and more Real than this one that we can now see. Everything that we know to be true in our own self bears witness to it if we have the ears to hear it and the heart to receive it. And everything about the call is asking us to trade the ragged self of this world and live out of the self of this other truer, more Real world. Answering our calling then is about taking off the trappings of one world and dressing in the garb and being of another, truer one.
To be called implies being. Someone who exists is calling to someone else who exists – one being communicating to another being. Calling is not just an idea stirring vaguely in us by some random chance of an impersonal universe. We don’t ache with longing and discontent simply from within our own individual being. Someone outside of us is issuing that call, voicing it and beckoning us to answer. Before the world was made, before creating the universe and all that exists in it, the Triune God existed in a state of Being. Like Him, our Creator made us each individually and crafted into us an identity of being bound into the very core of our nature, just as His identity is bound into His nature. Out of our identity is the place from which our truest actions and work come from. We are made to be before we do.
Our truest and best actions come out of knowing that we were made with profound intention before the world was put into its place and for purposes kept safe in hands greater than our own. That is the mark of living wholeheartedly called.
Calling is a topic near and dear to my heart.
This weekend I have the privilege of doing a full-day Calling to the Arts Workshop
with the Anselm Society in Colorado Springs.
For more information, click here.
Later this month, I have the joy of doing it again
in Oxford and Cambridge with the C.S. Lewis Foundation.
For more information, click here.
I would love to have you join me!
Many blessings and every grace to you, friends.