These are just a few of the many career ideas I juggled around in my heart and head as a teenager. During the years where many of my friends were pinpointing colleges and careers, my devotion to a life path changed as often as the seasons. It’s not that I wanted to be like this- I would have given anything to be as confident of my journey as my friends who could declare their major upon entrance to college. I just honestly didn’t know what I could possibly commit the rest of my life to doing when there were so many incredible options. I guess I had a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out) when it came to careers.
There was one thing I did know from early on in my teenage years- I had a heart for God and a heart for ministry. I knew that the times I felt most alive, most true to myself had all been within the context of some type of ministry environment. I was confident that I would always be involved in ministry somehow, whether it was full-time, part-time or volunteer. But even in the realm of ministry, I could never pinpoint exactly what I was supposed to do. I envied people like my husband who knew as a teenager that he was called to full-time youth ministry. It was never that clear for me. Would it be in the capacity of music and the arts? Maybe. Or working with kids? Probably. Or even teaching and leading? Possibly. So many options, so many paths caused many sleepless nights and melodramatic journal entries.
As I entered the young adult years and different ministry doors began to open, I would jump at each one saying, “Maybe this is it! Maybe this is what I am supposed to be doing!” I would give it 110% and then look around, hoping for some applause or affirmation that would let me know I was finally in my lane. But the lightbulb moment never came, and the calling to pursue just one avenue of ministry continued to elude me.
I married my husband and we entered a life of ministry as a team. My involvement ranged from children’s pastor to worship leader to event coordinator to preschool teacher to everything else in between. Some things within the context of the church, some without. I saw the full range of my gifts being used, often at different times and seasons, and I got a taste of each of the things I felt passionate about. But even during those years where I was able to do so many things I loved and experience so many different types of ministry, I still longed to just excel in that one “thing”, the thing that I could devote my life to, that I would leave my legacy behind in. That thing that when I passed on from this life, people would say, “Heather was a great _________.”
I cannot tell you how I wrestled with this. For someone who is driven and motivated like I am, this type of fluidity is maddening. I kept thinking, “If I just knew the ONE THING I am supposed to do, I could be awesome at it!!!” I felt that commitment to one path of ministry would make me a better minister. But a few years ago, through a gentle humbling by the Spirit I finally realized what I’m sure God had been trying to get through to me all along:
We are not called to a career or a ministry. We are called to OBEDIENCE.
When I finally grabbed ahold of this truth and let go of the unnecessary pressure I had been putting on myself to nail down one ministry/career path, a HUGE weight was lifted off me and EVERYTHING CHANGED. I was more joyful in my current ministry commitments. I was more willing to take risks. I was more peaceful with who I am and how I was created.
I do believe that some people have a specific calling that will shape most of their lives and career. My husband has been wired this way. But guess what? His calling to youth ministry did not trump the work God did in his heart to shift him to taking that heart for young people to the other side of the world. Walking in your calling does not mean you do not still have to be sensitive to the Spirit and allow Him to change what that calling looks like.
And for those of us who feel a bit eclectic in our calling- knowing we are called but not sure what we are called to- can I just tell you from experience that this does not make us any less-qualified or less-able. Bottom line: we are called to serve Jesus. That’s it! The way that looks will probably be very organic and fluid. And many times, others will see the beauty in what we are doing before we will. But I am convinced that those of us walking in this flexible calling get to experience some of the best of what it is to serve Jesus. We get to grow and change and transition and use a variety of our gifts (sometimes ones we didn’t even know we had) when we are willing to simply walk in obedience to whatever God asks of us. It is a beautiful, joyful journey we get to take, entrusting our heart and our passions to the One who knows us best.
I can look back on the past 13ish years of my “career” and I would not trade any experience I’ve had. My titles and zip code have changed multiple times, but my Father has been faithful to place me in seasons where my gifts have been utilized and my faith has been challenged. He knows my heart. He sees the girl who couldn’t pick what to write in the “what I want to be when I grow up” category on school papers and He’s let me experience a taste of every single thing my heart desired to do. What I used to despise about my calling, I now have the deepest gratitude for.
Being flexible has allowed me to be faithful- both to the God who called me, and to myself.
So to my fellow wildflowers in the wind, embrace the fluidity and flexibility of your calling. Don’t fight it. It is beautiful and necessary and holy in its own right. Trust that the God who made you is more than able to draw you into a journey that will fulfill both a need in the kingdom and the longing in your heart. He is SO good. As you lift your hands to the sky in surrender, He will lead and guide and take you on a more incredible adventure than you could ever have dreamed. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it. There is deep, deep joy in the flexible calling. And it comes in embracing each day, each season, each opportunity with open hands and an open heart. And if you still feel the need to nail something down, to have something unchangeable to cling to, it’s this:
How can I best love Jesus and others today?
That is my calling. That’s your calling. And when everything else changes, that never does.
How are you walking out your flexible calling? I’d love to hear!!