Lately I’ve been speaking quite often on the topics of calling and passion, specifically as those topics relate to marriage and parenting and family—what it looks like to build space into a marriage and a home for two vocations instead of one. Some of what I’ve been sharing comes from this piece, and here’s a video that captures some of it, too.
So many men and women have said, yes, yes, fine. I’m down with your idea. I get that there’s room in a home and a marriage for two callings. What I don’t get is where to start. How do I find that calling? How do I know what I’m passionate about?
A few thoughts to answer that question:
1. Above all else, I find that prayer and patience are what lead a person to their vocation or calling. You have to listen more than you think and it takes longer than you anticipate. Settle in, listen for God’s voice through prayer and silence. Prepare to receive this calling in bits and pieces and fragments and questions over time, instead of through burning bushes, although we know it does happen like that sometimes. Most of us, though, don’t get burning bushes–we get blips and whispers and occasional puzzle pieces that we have to carry around for a long time, inching instead of sprinting. That’s totally okay. That’s normal.
2. Keep in mind that a calling doesn’t have to be for a lifetime—I find it’s helpful to take it season by season. There are some through lines that will absolutely run through your whole life and story, but I think it’s a little overwhelming to think of your overall life-long calling. It’s helpful for me to think about it in terms of my calling for this season—for a school year, maybe, or for the next three years. That frame is a little less overwhelming.
3. Look back through your life and make note of the times you’ve felt fully alive. Make a date with yourself, and settle in with your journal, and think and write about the last couple times you felt like you were hitting on all cylinders, the last time you wanted to stop time. And don’t stop at the “right” answer—wander and wonder and give yourself permission for an answer you didn’t at all anticipate. I find that most of us self-edit, and without even knowing it we write down things we think we “should” love, instead of things we actually do. Even if it seems strange, even if it wouldn’t make sense to someone else, keep track of the moments in life that make you feel that good “this is what I’m here for” feeling.
And get into the habit of setting aside time once a month for that meeting–keep paying attention, taking mental notes, being honest with yourself along the way. Inch your way closer and closer to that passion area. We don’t arrive there all at once.
4. Ask for your people to reflect your passions back to you—we don’t always know on our own. Again, we think we know the right answers, so we don’t always make space or permission for the answers that might surprise us. Ask for an hour with a friend who knows you well, and ask him or her to reflect back some things he or she notices—times when you’ve been at your best, things that energized or brought you great joy.
5. Make a plan. Sometimes we think that the power of our passion will move us forward into our vocation all on its own, that we’ll be bubbling up with it so emphatically that it will propel us into a new future. Maybe that happens for some people. But most people I know make a plan and work it.
If you decide that writing is your passion, give yourself a deadline by which you’ll start a blog, and then commit to a posting schedule. Passion will only frustrate you if it doesn’t find an outlet, so once you locate it, put it to work with a plan.
6. Try things, and let them lead you to new places. You take one step, and then another, and then another. It’s the overthinking that will kill you—not the diving in, not the trying, not the risk taking. Try to get some vague sense of your passion for this season, make a plan, and then let it lead you to the next thing. It’s not an exact science, and it’s almost never a straight line, but the process of it teaches you such rich things along the way. I promise.
A few books on the topic:
Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons
Undaunted by Christine Caine
Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
What’s helped you find what you’re passionate about? What would you recommend to someone who’s searching for their vocation or calling?