I was raised a Christian. I was raised in a Christian family. I’m not sure of the most accurate way to describe it. My parents were Christians, although they were married in a Catholic Church. I became a Christian at a young age, but I don’t remember the specific day. Christian churches are a little less structured in their ‘confirmations’ than their Catholic counterparts, fewer white dresses, fewer sacraments. I also repeated the drill, recited the lines, a few times to make sure it really took. I never got a receipt in the mail from Jesus or God, so I was never too sure; I’m still not. I got a Bible with my name embossed on it in gold but I didn’t think Heaven took golden lettering for admission. For what it’s worth, I think mine was a pretty standard Christian upbringing. We went to church on Sundays and other Holy Days, a Brethren church to start. Probably because it was close to our house or because my parents knew people who also went there or maybe the superior quality of the communion crackers, not necessarily for the denomination itself. I attended a Christian elementary school, Baptist, and the trend of being schooled at religious institutions continued until I graduated college the first time. The schools ran the gamut of denominations from Pentecostal to Christian Reformed, Calvinist and Catholic to non-denominational. Those were just the schools. I managed to attend a variety of churches of varying denominations as well, including some that looking back may have been borderline cults that met in abandoned warehouses and former elementary schools, but a few served real wine and real bread as communion so why would I ask questions? I should have become a religious scholar because I did a fair amount of research on branches of Christianity during my youth.
Differences aside, every Protestant Christian denomination was pulling from the same book – the Bible, and delivering basically the same message to my untrained, un-ordained young ears. God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Commandments, Beatitudes, Heaven, Hell, etc. One of the topics that stood out to me was that of “being called” to some sort of duty, mission, or occupation or lifestyle, in which you would live out God’s purpose for your life. It was like the life application of your faith. Christianity Applied. The Real World: Christianity. This sounded great to me (still does honestly). How simple and convenient. It was ideal. I just need to ask God what to do and he’ll tell me what to do for the rest of my life. I’ll be golden. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that simple, at least not for me. I couldn’t find my calling and it wasn’t because I hated talking on the phone (still do). I prayed and prayed and prayed and didn’t get the call. I took quizzes and answered questionnaires, like personality tests to determine how you could best contribute to the church, faith and Kingdom of Heaven, but I still didn’t end up with a clear calling. Maybe I didn’t have what it takes. Maybe I was just a little too critical to justify it as discerning, maybe I was a little too negative to label it as cautious. I was told to be patient and continue praying, that my gifts would be revealed in time, on God’s time, not my time.
The idea of ‘gifts’ (not like the ones you’re thinking don’t get excited) was closely tied to that of being ‘called’. Your gifts would be bestowed upon you by God and utilized in your calling, or vocation. It all sounded like getting recruited to the army, God’s Army, except with different weaponry and hopefully better uniforms. Your gifts would be revealed and assessed and then you’d be assigned a calling that aligned with those gifts. I really wanted a calling (still do). I really wanted God to tell me that he designed me for something specifically and equipped me with these perfectly catered tools (gifts) for the task. I really wanted my life to be laid out that simply for me, but I got tired of waiting. Maybe Christianity is just a giant test of patience and I failed. Eventually I concluded God lost his watch or they didn’t have clocks in heaven, because my time did not arrive. I never got the call so I stopped waiting by the phone.
The problem with growing up being told you would have a calling is you don’t instantly grow out of wanting one, at least I didn’t. If you never find a calling in the church maybe you can still find a perfect fit outside of it. But if you can’t find a fit outside of the church either, then what? What do I do with this desire for a calling that I was promised? I still want a calling, not necessarily from God himself anymore, hell, I’ll settle for a text for a guy named Jesus. I just want direction from anyone or anything or anywhere. I want to know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, even though I don’t believe in fate or destinies. I want to know that I’m designed for a certain activity, purpose or occupation even though I don’t believe our personalities are pre-determined. I want to find that jigsaw puzzle in the world that is missing a me-shaped piece even though I know there are thousands of back-up puzzle pieces available. I still want the call, and I haven’t changed my number since high school so I don’t understand why I still haven’t received it.