Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I'm talking with my students in ED101 about our motivations to want to become teachers. The class is mostly freshmen, and many of them are taking the course because they think they want to be teachers. Some are very honest that they aren't sure if this is their life's calling.

They largely have noble motives for thinking about this vocation. I love to hear their stories--the great teachers who have inspired them, the people who have pointed out their gifts and talents and encouraged them to think about teaching, their personal drive to make a difference in the lives of kids. One student was even very bluntly honest: "I think having summers off will be pretty great." Love that authenticity.

We spent some time in class today talking about calling, as in, "Am I called to teach?" This is a challenging question for them. Some feel a very clear calling from the Lord that this is His will for their lives. Other feel a lot more tentative--that they are open to it, but not sure if this is really for them. Still others aren't quite sure what to do with their life, and since they've spent so many years in school already...maybe teaching is the right place for them?

We talked about specific calling: "I believe God has a specific plan for my life, and that involves me becoming a 4th grade teacher." I know people who feel this level of specificity in God's call in their life. I really wish for that kind of clarity, even though it seems a little scary, because I don't always feel like God's will is made that plainly clear in my life. I'm the sort who would really like neon letters in the sky and a booming voice from the heavens. (Actually, that might be kind of scary in a different way!)

We went on to talk about calling in a much more general sense. I shared with them a famous quote from Frederick Beuchner:

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

I've read this quote so many times and heard it in so many contexts, it is almost becoming a cliché to me. 

But I also believe it is true.

And I also believe it is helpful for discerning God's will for our lives. A former pastor, in a sermon about discerning God's will put it this way:

Jesus says, "Follow me!"

I say, "Lord, I'll follow you! Make the path plain for me though, okay? Then I can see where we're headed, so I can really follow you."

And Jesus says, "Follow me!"

And I say, "Lord, I'm happy to follow you, and I will...but can't you just give me the basic outline of the path first so I know where you're leading?"

And Jesus says, "Follow me!"

And I say, "All right, Lord...I'm with you, but here's the thing...I could go this way, or I could go that way. I could choose this thing that seems good, or I could choose that thing which seems equally good...and it would really help clear things up for me if you would just tell me if it should be 'this' or 'that.' Then I'll know I'm following you, okay, Lord?"

And Jesus says, "Follow me!"

And I say, "Okay, Lord, c'mon...can't you just tell me which one I should choose? I would feel so much more clarity if you would just tell me I should do 'this.' Or should I do 'that?' How do I choose? I just don't know which one is your plan for me. Help me out here, Lord! I want to follow you!"

And Jesus says, "So choose! Do 'this,' or do 'that.' But follow me!"

This gets at the heart of the issue of calling for me. I'm often so wrapped up in trying to discern God's specific plan for my life that I fail to remember His BIG plan for my life: that I follow Him. I had a bit of this when I was considering whether to keep teaching at an elementary school or if I should move into teaching at the college level. "Should I do 'this,' Lord? Or should I do 'that?' Will you make your will clear for me?" 

And perhaps God's real answer was, "Dave, I've given you gifts to teach. Are you going to teach in the elementary school? Great! Follow me! Teach those kids to the best of your ability. Are you going to teach at the college? Fantastic! Follow me! Teach them to be great teachers."

Much as I'd love to have a very specific plan spelled out for my life, I'm learning to rest in God's broader plan for my life.

There is a world of need out there, and God is calling me to be active in it.

I am called to be a faithful servant wherever I am. 

I am called to faithfully use my gifts, whether for 'this' or for 'that.'

I am called to love God above all and my neighbor as myself.

I am called to follow.


  1. As a follow up, the book "Just Do Something" by Kevin DeYoung (senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan) defines several different types of God's "will". The idea of calling expressed here is very close to that described in his book. I think it is also very biblical and freeing for those like myself who have been stuck in the doldrums of indecision.

    1. Great book suggestion! Dave, wonderful words, thanks.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Troy! I'm not familiar with the book, but I think I'll have to pick it up sometime.