When I first found my way back to church at the ripe age of 23, there were a number of Christian phrases that made me feel like a foreign exchange student. Grace, sin, salvation, “saved”. Communion, holy spirit, dedication, spiritual gifts, tongues…
I can’t even tell you how many conversations my eyes glazed over as I wondered, “what are these people talking about?”
Yet one idea confused me more than the Sweet and Sour Tater Tot Hot Dish. That was the idea of a “calling.”
“God called me to start an after-school mentoring program for kids.”
“God called me to bake sugar-free, gluten-free monster cookies for the homeless.”
“God called me to wear an extra small nurses costume on Halloween and hand out candy to every single guy west of the Mississippi.”
Okay, maybe I made that last one up.
In fact, I often found myself doubting this word calling altogether. I mean are you sure that “feeling” is not just the sesame chicken, fried rice and mountain dew from lunch sloshing around in your small intestine? Like, how do you really know it’s truly a pigeon carrier from the heavens?
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After six years of immersion into these Christian people, I think I’ve cracked the translation of what this word means.
The things God wants you to do… that is your calling! And we all have one. Actually, we all have many.
There are the basic callings of all us Christians like these:
- Love people well—especially the unlovable people in our lives. (Matthew 5:46)
- Serve the least of these. (Matthew 25:40)
- Make disciples, encouraging and sharing their faith with those around them. (Matthew 28:19)
- Be a light everywhere we go. (Matthew 5:16)
(to name a few).
Then there are individual callings we were created by God to do, tasks he prepared for us in advance:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10
Discovering your calling isn’t as hard as it sounds. I think you already know many of them. There are causes or groups of people that your heart breaks for. There are tasks that bring you to life and explode in your heart with excitement when you think about them. The truth is, God is constantly speaking into our lives, we just have to create space and learn how to listen.
- Be a good son, brother, uncle, friend.
- Teach elementary school kids about music and love them.
- Be an online missionary, spreading the love of God through this crazy blog.
- Write and speak about my experiences about suicide and depression as often as possible.
- Invest in the next generation.
- Live frugally so I can be debt-free and give generously.
- Live a life that is fully and recklessly alive.
I didn’t discover these overnight. They’ve been slowly emerging and evolving throughout my life. Living the Recklessly Alive life involves knowing what you were created to do (and going after it). Here are 9 questions you can use to check in with your soul to discover what you were created to do.
1.) What is God’s Will for my life?
Hmm… can we just pretend this isn’t the first question? As in all awkward situations, instead of asking this question I’d rather moonwalk out of the room right now…
To be honest, I’m scared to ask God this question. I have all these plans and expectations for what my life should look like and what if they don’t match up? What if I don’t like God’s will for my life?
- Take a deep breath.
- Open a journal.
- Write the question and then listen.
- Notice what rises up in you.
- Notice what thoughts you immediately bat away.
- Then just write and write and write.
And then try again the next day. Or once a week. And if all you hear is the rrrRrerrreeer of the air conditioner, maybe talk a walk or eat some buffalo wings and see if you can get something going’.
The hard truth is the only way I know to constantly hear God’s voice in your life is to intimately know the word of God.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2
When you wake up each morning and spend time in the bible, THEN you are able to test and approve God’s perfect will for your life. And one day you’ll just know that you know.
Action Step: Make it a habit to listen to God’s still, quiet voice speaking love and purpose into your life every day. Open your journal and ask God “What is your will for my life?”
2.) What do I wish no one knew about me?
You didn’t think that discovering your calling was going to be easy, did you?
We’ve all the crap we wish no one knew. We’ve all got insecurities that try to convince us we aren’t worthy of love and belonging. Yet some people have an inner-confidence to tell those voices where to stick it. When the lies come flying in their direction, they let them fall down their back like a warm summer rain.
Whatever has happened to you, you have to find a way to make peace with it. You have to root it out or it will continue to bury itself deeper and deeper inside of you. You won’t be able to find your purpose in life if you’re running from the things that make you who you are—both the awesome and the despicable.
This may be through journaling, a trusted friend or family member, writing your story, joining a support group, seeing a counselor or therapist, or meeting with a spiritual director or pastor.
If you’re truly pursuing God’s willl, some tough forces are going to come flying in your direction and you need to be confident and strong in who you are in the Lord.
Action Step: Spend time journaling and talking to God about the hardest parts of your story. Reach out for help and let a trusted person see you—the real you.
3.) What pain of my past can God use for good?
This was my desperate prayer the week following my suicide attempt in 2011. I asked God “how could we use all my pain to help others.” This blog was his first answer to that question and off we went.
He continues to answer that question through my speaking, my in-progress book and through Recklessly Alive Ministries which we officially launched last May.
This is one of my favorite promises in the entire bible:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28
God will use ALL THINGS for good. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is restoring our broken past and making us whole again. He does this in a lot of sneakily beautiful ways—like choosing to be vulnerable and share our stories.
Consider mentoring a young person or teaching Sunday school. Volunteer for an organization that matches what you went through or start one if it doesn’t exist yet. Help someone survive what you went through. Be the person you needed in your darkest hour. By serving others we also find healing and wholeness in ourselves.
Action Step: Seek out an opportunity to encourage someone who is struggling. Use your pain for the good of others.
4.) What makes you come alive?
When God truly is calling you to do something there will always be joy. When you know you are where you were meant to be, you can’t help but smile and feel an explosive sense of comfort—even if it’s really hard.
The first time I truly felt that was during a six-week missionary program to Zimbabwe in 2013. When I arrived for training, I just knew that I knew this was meant to be and it was six of the happiest weeks of my life.
I am most alive when I am writing, talking about Jesus, reading the bible, working with kids, blogging, running, spending time in nature, worshipping, relaxing with family and friends, dreaming, singing, serving the poor.
Action Step: Make a list of what makes you feel the most alive and chase those things. Make a list of destructive things in your life too. Now make choices every day that bring you to life.
5.) What Would You Do If You Knew You Couldn’t Fail?
Whatever your calling is I can guarantee you it will always involve risk. Faith isn’t for the faint of heart friends—it means stepping out on the water when Jesus calls to us like Peter. (Matthew 14:22-33)
If you want to do great things in the name of God, you’re going to put it all on the line. Like Francis Chan writes in Crazy Love,
“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”
If you knew that the God who created the infinite universe—the God who moves mountains, parts seas, heals the sick and broken-hearted, raised Jesus from the dead—was on your side, what risk would you take today? What organization would you start? What would you quit? Who would you share about your faith with?
We are brainwashed to pursue comfort at all costs, but when you’re chasing God’s will in your life it’s going to be risky and dangerous in the most beautiful way.
If our God is for us, who can be against us? -Romans 8:31
Action step: Journal about your biggest dreams. Spend time letting God breathe into and clarify those dreams. Check that your dreams line up with the person Jesus taught us to be. Then go all-in.
6.) Who is the most inspirational person you know? What is the secret to their greatness?
Who do you look up to? Who are your heroes? They could be people in your own life or they could be incredible people you’ve never met.
How are they living out their calling? What practices can you emulate in your life?
One of these people in my life is my friend Matt who blogs at earlydoiseekyou.com. Matt is incredible at building relationships, faithful in his study of the word, an awesome dad and husband and tirelessly invests in the people around him. That’s the type of person I want to be.
Find people who make you want to be a better person, who encourage you to discover your calling and chase it with your whole heart—your achy, break heart.
Research shows that you are becoming like the 5 people you spend the most time with regardless if you want to or not.
Action Step: surround yourself with inspiring people. Seek out friends and mentors who build you up and make you want to be the best version of yourself.
7.) What do you do out of obligation and guilt? What do you do to impress others?
One of the most important aspects of chasing your calling is to realize what you are not called to do. All too often I do things without thinking, without noticing the motivation behind what I’m doing.
Is my motivation actually from a good place? Is my motivation to help the person or rescue them? Is my motivation to bring God glory or bring glory to myself? Am I doing this because God wants me to or because I feel guilty?
When I’m operating out of a guilt place, I pack my schedule with endless activities so I don’t have to slow down and get in touch with my heart. I forget to check in with God before making huge decisions on how to spend my time.
Action Step: Look at you calendar and look at your current schedule. Are you spending a good chunk of time on things that are helping you live out your calling? Are you intentionally living your life is your life living you?
8.) When I look back on my life, what choice do I wish I would have made?
This is a question I use whenever I have a huge and stressful decision to make. Are you going to wish you made more money or spent more time with family and friends? Will you wish you had watched more TV or helped someone in need?
Action Step: Imagine you are at the end of your life. What do you want your legacy and impact on the world to be? What will you want people to say about you? What are you doing today to get you there?
9.) What stands in the way of you living out your calling?
Here’s the thing, the enemy does not want you to live out your calling. He does not want you to be fully alive.
What destructive forces are in your way? For me it’s selfish ambition, consumerism, student debt, depression, doubt, fear, isolation, alcohol.
What is holding you back?
Action Step: Identify the things in your life that are holding you back. Now ask yourself what you can do to fight back. Pray for God to bring breakthrough in those areas. Take steps to break free from anything that is keeping you from accomplishing the things God created you to do.
My dear friends, I pray you are brave enough to spend time today asking God about your calling. I hope you’re strong enough to identify what’s holding you back and fight with all your heart to be free.
Stop stressing about what God wants you to do and pick something. Just go for it. See a need and meet it. See a broken person and walk alongside.
Here’s the thing:
We cannot screw up God’s plan for our lives. He will always guide us back to where we’re supposed to be.
“The man or woman who is wholly or joyously surrendered to Christ can’t make a wrong choice, any choice will be the right one.” A.W. Tozer
Surrender to God’s plan for your life.
Find your calling and spend your life living it out to the best of your ability.
Then you will feel fully and recklessly alive.
What are you waiting for? Go get ‘em kid.
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