A Calling?

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 13 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

I never really got what people meant when they said “I was called by God.” I figured that if/when I was ever called, it would be abundantly clear.

I don’t think that’s the case.

However, I’m confused as to how one discerns between a Godly calling and a desire? I worry that in cases of extreme desire, I could be blinded by emotion.

Does it even matter?


7 thoughts on “A Calling?”

  1. I’d have to agree with you. I too am confused by what it means to “be called upon by god.” I feel like this whole “god phenomenon” is just a figment of the imagination. I remember back in the day when I was a hardcore Christian that I didn’t really ever feel different. In my view it was just comforting to know that there was some dude in the sky that is watching you and making sure you’re all good.

    What’s also interesting is that in a way you could relate the whole act of “praying” to a psychological disorder. I mean you are imagining that there is an invisible person that you’re talking to. The only “evidence” that we have is both the bible (if you call that evidence. Personally I don’t believe that it is accurate) and the overall “feeling” of a higher presence that has been passed from generation to generation. But the weirdest thing is that people usually sometimes ask for this invisible person’s help. Which you can’t judge… because it’s so arbitrary. If you get what you want, than hurray for you. But if you don’t get what you want, than I guess God doesn’t like you.

    But.. Oh wait, we have this thing about how “God has a plan for all of us.” (this is the worst part in my opinion) I mean it’s okay if your mom died of cancer when you were 7. And it’s okay that your dad was so overcome with anger that he beat you over and over again to vent his anger. God has a plan for you, and you probably came out a better person because of it. NO! He ISN’T a better person out of it. What happened happened, and yeah he probably changed. But does that necessarily mean it was the better thing to do? I actually just saw this example in a really great documentary called “The Protagonist.” This kid’s family was totally and completely Christian, and his mom died of cancer at the age of 7. This person eventually turned out to be a bank robber and criminal.

    So I think I should cut my rant off right there… But basically, I wouldn’t care to wrong religion like this unless its for a reason. That particular reason happens to be because of the unjust treatment against homosexuals, and the fact that we can’t use stem cells to at least try and treat cancer.

  2. Well, I think it’s pretty clear what people mean when they say that — they mean that God wants them to do something in particular.

    But I agree that it is difficult to know when this is the case, and people often make very dangerous claims about what God is doing in their life and what He has called them to do. I guess you have to look at these claims on a case-by-case basis.

    “In my view it was just comforting to know that there was some dude in the sky that is watching you and making sure you?re all good.”
    This is not Christianity. This is just superstition based on other people’s convictions.

    “The only ?evidence? that we have is both the bible (if you call that evidence. Personally I don?t believe that it is accurate) and the overall ?feeling? of a higher presence that has been passed from generation to generation.”
    This is not true.
    There are at least 9 arguments there for the existence of God that are completely independent of the Bible.

    And you’re right, if you’re just praying to an invisible person you merely hope exists (but think probably doesn’t exist), you’re nuts.

    “Oh wait, we have this thing about how ?God has a plan for all of us.? (this is the worst part in my opinion)”
    I pretty much agree with you here. I can’t stand the people who think that all the horrible things that happen are part of God’s plan. I don’t know where that idea got started but I think it totally contradicts basic Christian beliefs about God.

  3. Thanks for replying Quinn! I have to say before I get into this discussion that I absolutely love hearing other’s ideas.

    Now for the first part of your reply, I would just like to say that that wasn’t the most thought out phrase. Especially when concerning with Christianity. To be a Christian means to follow (as much as you can) in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. For he is the son of god, and he was made in god’s image. Now am I wrong to say that those people, who believe in Christianity and are trying their hardest to follow in his footsteps, expect (or at least want) things from God? For example, I know for a fact that many people pray to god asking for him to heal their friends and family who are ill. Aren’t they comforting themselves by doing so? This is just the tip of the ice berg, but again, I would just like to emphasize the point that in my opinion: Many people turn to Christianity for comfort. That is what that previous statement was meant to get across.

    Thank you for the link. I had a chance to look at some of the arguments, and I have to say that I am appalled. Let’s first look at the Ontological argument.

    The basic premise of this argument is: If we can conceive of God, God exists. This statement is ridden full of paradoxes. (Before I go on I will just say that I might not totally understand this argument, therefore prove me wrong if I need to be) Can’t one conceive of a human being running at lets just say 60 mph? But yet that doesn’t exist. Can’t a human being conceive of a spaceship that goes at the speed of light? But yet again, this sort of thing doesn’t exist. Why does God exist just because we can conceive him?

    Now after reading these arguments over, two other arguments really pushed my buttons; the cosmological argument and the teleological argument. First the cosmological…

    Just because we as humans haven’t been able to find the reason for why the big bang happened in the first place, DOES NOT mean that there is a God. Many people think that this is a “simple” reason for how the universe was created. But think about it, what’s easier to except: We don’t know how our universe began yet. Or: All the sudden, before there was NOTHING, there was a complex, ultimate, hyper intelligent and fully developed being that created everything. Just because we don’t know much about how our universe was created doesn’t mean that it can’t be explained. I believe in the “magic” of science to find that out soon enough. If you want my all-encompassing question to stump this argument, than here it is: How did God come to be in the first place? Is the only explanation for why god was created is that there must be another god who created him? Well how did that god get created? Notice the paradox…

    I loathe the teleological argument because it seems to be so simple in that just because we view our world around us as complex, then there must be a higher power. I don’t and can’t ever believe in this argument. Life works as it does because it is. That is the simplest explanation I can give for why our universe is so complex.

    Now I’m going to stop because my mind is frying :). I’m super tired so please excuse any grammar / spelling mistakes that might be present.

  4. yay!!! jesus debates on andrew’s blog! its like christmas in march!!!

    well, im not going to debate any major theological points but doesn’t it seem entirely possible that “being called by god” is a concept resulting from the natural desire for concise and simple answers to complex situations?

    i mean, to actually consider your desires as an autonomous activity places a lot of responsibility on a person. and requires a great deal of introspection and perhaps guilt. but if its god’s will, then the need to question it or yourself or deal with those tough whothefuckami and whatamisupposedtodoasamorallystrivingindividual questions. and i think more importantly, godmadeitso is an explanation that answers anything, and is much simpler to understand than the unquantifiable combinations of variables that exist in every situation to make it so. sometimes, i think religious people use god as a copout. its easier to think of heaven rather than the end of life; to think everything is part of gods plan rather than the fact that sometimes, fucked up shit happens; to believe that bad people will have a day of judgment with eternal punishment rather than acknowledging that every collective action problem will have defectors and thats an issue to be dealt with or accepted here. (of course, i think a lot of those beliefs are comforting and have no problem with people’s desire for that… its when the teachings of love and acceptance and the idea that everything will turn out okay if you try real hard, someone decides to throw in some unbelievably ignorant, dated crap that suddenly, is immediately..and blindly.. granted the same validity as the important teachings simply because they were all thrown into the bible)

    this is my primary confusion about religion. people act like being an atheist is depressing. i think it is an opportunity for so much wonderment. simplest example: god putting us on earth because he wanted a bunch of mini-mes VS. a statistically impossible combination of variables (though no more statistically impossible than any other combination, mind you) present in an environment that allows for life itself and from that original, simple life form, the evolution of our diverse ecosystem based on a few simple principles.

    or people act like morality is impossible to teach to children without religion. and im sorry, but i was raised christian and taught by the example of jesus and the bible and doing as god says to appease him. and though i in no way chastise the example of jesus (who, for the record, i believe would stand with the transexuals, homeless veterans with mental illnesses, defiant teenagers, and every other sect of society the radical right rejects in god’s name. seriously, shameshame.), but as someone who makes a guiding children in making their own moral decisions, i have such deeper faith in children and the human spirit, completely independent of any supernatural force, that i prefer to teach morality in accordance with basic logic. and i dont know why a logical understanding of society and individual feelings is so undervalued compared to the unquestionablegodsaidsos.

  5. I’ll resist the urge to point out glaring inconsistencies and areas of obvious ignorance in previous comments and stick to the question posed in the original post.

    I think that when most people talk about “calling” what they’re really referring to is vocation. I think the common misapprehension is that we just wait around for a call and then act based on that call. When we talk about a God that “calls” us, I think we’re really talking about a God that knows us as individuals and knows what work we’re best suited for, the work that makes us most ourselves. So when we ask what we’re called to do, we really mean what will make us come alive. That’s why I think your comment about desire is somewhat problematic. It’s getting in touch with your deepest desires that is going to reveal your calling. One of my favorite professors here says that discernment is about the intersection of three things. Discover what brings you joy. Discover what you’re good at. Discover what the world needs. The intersection of those three things at any given moment is your calling. If (as I think you might be) you’re choosing between two good options, listen to where your desires are strongest and deepest. I think God wants us to be most fully ourselves, so I think that for some people emotion may play a significant role in the decision-making process, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

    At the end of the day, knowing what you’re called to do means knowing who you are. It’s not a one-time deal, based on an isolated decision that impacts the rest of your life. It’s about living in a way that is in touch with your real identity, and the more you understand about that the more all of your actions and decisions are just an extension of yourself.

    Kind of a ramble, let me know what you think or if it was helpful (or not).

  6. Sorry I haven’t been more responsive on this topic, you guys all caught me as I was heading out of exams and into spring break:

    Sam, I think you missed my point. I’m not having a crisis of faith, I’m trying to determine intent (if that’s even the correct word).

    There is no proof of Go. That would defeat the purpose of faith. If you’re looking for confirmation (which I think is different then proof), Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time helped me. I’ve also heard that The Case for Christ is also a very good book (and perhaps better geared towards you).

    As for the kid whose mom died of cancer and his dad beat him. It’s a sad reality that things like this happen. I can’t speak for God on His plans, but I don’t think that it was His desire for this to happen. This of course sparks an entirely new debate about free will that I will not be getting into.

    In any event, here’s my take home message: Bill Stephens, the Youth Director at The Annex at Boulder First Presbyterian, said something the other day that really struck a chord for me. You can pray and be the best Christian ever on the face of the Earth, but God doesn’t necessarily give you whatever it is you’re praying for; He will, however, give you the opportunity.

    Quinn, I should have better phrased that opening sentence. People say there are called by God and I get that part (I think). What I don’t understand as much is how they were called. I think I’ve always had this idea in my head about having a literal conversation with God (such as one might have on the telephone). Perhaps the better question to ask is how do I know the message is authentic? Back in the day, I figure it was pretty easy to tell when God was talking to you: you had a burning bush that spoke to you and that was that1.

    Laura, I’m glad I could deliver Christmas to you in March.

    I don’t think I have a need for a concise and simple answer to a complex question. More over, I’m not so insecure with myself that I need a scapegoat (i.e. God) to tell me what to do and then be able to blame it on Him if things were to not work out. So no, I’m not trying to, nor would it ever be my intent to use God as a copout. That’s just lame….although a very good and valid point.

    I think that you also have a point in how Christianity has been bastardized, but I’m not going to get into that here since I’m really trying to keep this post on topic.

    And finally by dear Staples, thanks for staying on topic. The idea that the intersection of what brings you joy, what you’re good at, and what the word needs is fantastic and was very helpful.

    I don’t necessarily wear my intents on my sleeve, but space exploration is what I get excited about and working towards that goal is what brings me joy. I’d like to think that I’m good at space exploration (or rather the electrical engineering skills needed to help with the larger picture), but I think that’s a quality that will take time to test (how can you know if you’re any good unless you try?). The world needs lots of things and while one might not think that space exploration is what the world needs, especially given all of our other problems, I believe that the world needs to explore. There are many benefits to space exploration that are often secondary to the primary mission.

    The other thing that interests me is engineering missionary work. Andy Collins sent out an email a couple months ago mentioning a group called EMI (Engineering Ministries International). I think that something like this is definitely in my future, especially once I get more established as an engineer.

    1 Exodus 3:4

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