I can remember as a child nearly every day, coming home from school to play school. I would set up my imaginary classroom, with my imaginary students (like Joey who was always so naughty I had to discipline him every day), with my imaginary assignments like math tests and science lessons. My father once brought home a giant chalkboard his work was throwing out to give to me, and I lost my mind! You would’ve thought my dad brought me a pony or something. I remember my mother taking me to the teacher supply store, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were workbooks, stickers, bulletin board cutouts, pencils, as far as the eye could see!
I was a little psycho kid, I know.
So you can only imagine how strongly I felt about my calling to become a teacher. I graduated and began teaching right away. I spent hours planning lessons, making my classroom a fun learning environment, thinking through how to teach reading to a room full of 5 year olds who barely knew how to zip up their own pants.
And guess what? I struggled. I struggled my first year, so I blamed it on being a new teacher. Then I struggled my second year, so I blamed it on the socio-economic status I was serving (very wealthy families). I decided to move and work at school that had a low socio-economic status, thinking that would be better. I was still struggling, so I switched schools and grade levels. And by my 5th year in, I started to realize that this dream wasn’t so dreamy.
I was having a particularly hard day once in my classroom, and after I had just quieted my class down, telling them I didn’t want to hear a peep, not even the tap of a pencil, for 10 minutes (because I was so frazzled), one of my students sneezed. I whipped my head around so fast, marched over to her desk, and in frustration and exhaustion, I told her “EMILY! YOU NEED TO SNEEZE QUIETER”. I was so worked up and burned out, I told a child to sneeze quieter. How do you even do that?!
As those words came out of my mouth, I knew something had to change. I knew that my lifelong dream, maybe even my *calling*, wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.
I had gone from being a passionate educator, excited to plan and execute lessons and help children grow in their learning, to a cranky, uptight, tired, burnt out teacher. I felt like I was a square peg, in a round hole, trying to make something fit that just wouldn’t.
And I grieved. Everything on paper told me I was born to be a teacher. Yet, when I did it, I knew it wasn’t for me. Here I am, 8 years later, wrapping up my career as a teacher to discover my “calling”.
A couple of months ago, I was talking to some 9 year olds about the true meaning of Lent/Easter. They said Lent is “when you give up things for God, and if you mess up or eat the candy you shouldn’t, God will punish you. That’s what Easter’s all about”. And after they shared their meaning of Easter, I grinned because I was about to share mine, the Gospel. I shared about the God I knew that took the punishment for us, even when we mess up and eat that candy we promised we wouldn’t. I shared about the God who was in the garden and the God who was on the Cross. And as I was talking to them about this, one of the kids interrupted me and said “You know what, you should be one of those people that teaches stories about “la biblia” (the bible).
In just a few words this nine year old spoke into my fear and uncertainty about my calling, and pegged me. He knew what I was good at and born to do, because I was doing it right there in front of him. Teaching and telling stories about la biblia.
That’s when I realized maybe it isn’t so much about calling, as it is about using your gifts. I was born to be a teacher, but I started to realize it may not be in the classroom. I was chasing after a career more than I was being faithful in using my God given gifts and talents.
I realized that my “calling” was still the same, it was just in a different environment. The way God has made me didn’t change. The gifts he had given me didn’t change. The place and the way in which I was using them did.
I have no exact place or title or plan for this, but as I walk away from this career of teaching, I know my calling is to be a teacher. Whether it is sharing stories about la biblia with friends, my small group, women in my church, neighbors, family, one-on-one over coffee, through writing, whatever it may be, I’m a teacher. I’m just not so worried with the where and the how anymore.
My calling has become less about a career and more about faithfulness.
My calling is to go and make disciples.
My calling is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him”.
My calling is to share my testimony and my stories.
My calling is to steward and invest my gifts.
My calling is to love and serve my husband, my friends, family, and neighbors.
My calling is to trust and obey God.
My calling is to hold my life with open hands and say “whatever you want for me LORD, whatever you want from me.”
I’ve learned through this experience to hold calling with an open hand. I’ve learned the better questions to ask is not “what’s my calling”, but “am I using my gifts, and faithfully stewarding them?”
That won’t always have a name, or a place, a title, or a paycheck.
Maybe calling is just faithfulness, obedience, meeting needs, and running with passion more than it is about finding the right career.
Calling is just doing the work God has for you.
And there are a million different ways to fulfill that kind of calling.
Here are some other brilliant people and their different thoughts on calling:
Jeff Goins on Calling
Karen Yates on Calling
Shauna Niequist on Calling & Passion