Advent III: Identity And Call

In what do you find your identity? I heard a story this week from a guy called Ed, who used to be the lead pastor in a huge church until he was diagnosed with ALS. He left his job because he didn’t want his congregation to see what the disease would do to him. The move left him feeling devastated, purposeless, and unneeded.

When we talk about fulfilling our call, our purpose for living, we usually mean work. A job, a vocation. We consider our purpose as something to be done and an action to be taken. But what if your dream job gets pulled out from under you? What if that life-giving career suddenly turns sour? How do you act on your call when there is no work for you to do?

Ed went through a very difficult time after quitting his job. He didn’t know what to do with his call. He had spent his career identifying his purpose with studies and sermons and coming into the office every day; his call was his job. And then his job was gone. His identity was stripped.

Can a call be something more than a job? Is purpose only limited to work we need to get done? Maybe it’s something more than that. Generally people try and find their call in their passions. We figure if we find a job we love, we’ll never work a day in our lives. Our passions are ours for a reason; doesn’t it make sense that they would be part of our call? Of course it does! When we find our call in the things we love, we pursue that call with all of our heart and strive for it with all of our strength.

Those passions we have are a key piece of our identity. They go a long way to defining who we are. When we search for our call in them we discover that a call is more than just a job or even a vocation. Our call is something to be. It’s a way of living, a way of seeing, a way of orienting yourself to the One who made you. If we are made for a purpose, then that purpose — that call — is also part of our identity. When you find the way you are meant to be, you find what you were meant to do.

Ed eventually reconnected with his call: to live like Jesus, the most basic call there is. He had been finding his identity in his job, in what he did. But now that his job was gone, he had to find a new way to live out his call and a new place for his identity. Where he used to preach to thousands every week, he now pastors people one on one over coffee. His passion was rediscovered in a new and surprising way.

Your call is not just what you’re meant to do. It’s who you’re meant to be.

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