Finding your call
JANESVILLE More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus told his followers, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
If Jesus was preaching today, he might say, “Many are called, but most let the call go to voicemail.”
Then, Jesus was calling people to follow him.
Now, modern Christians are asked to consider their “calling” in this world. Often this search starts with questions such as “What am I meant to be doing?” or “What would really make me happy?”
Sometimes those questions are answered with a Lexus or a Caribbean cruise. But other times, those kinds of questions lead people on a search for something more satisfying.
“I would say that the human race is made to give; to use their gifts for the betterment of others,” said the Rev. Forrest Wells of Cargill United Methodist Church, Janesville. “Until we’ve learned the fulfillment of joy through serving, we’re always going to be restless.”
Then he added, ruefully, “Of course, that’s antithetical to what people hear from our culture.”
It’s a culture of rush, where annoying calls go to voice mail, and we don’t want to go on a spiritual search without a reliable road map.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The road and destination are different for everyone, but people who have made the journey can help you get started.
Finding your place
Sister Mary Christopher Lemire is happy.
She’s in a high-stress job in the health care industry, has to deal with an economy that’s going straight to hell in a investment banker’s hand basket and tomorrow she might be told to leave all her friends in Wisconsin and take up a new post elsewhere.
Still, she’s happy.
“There isn’t anything anyone could do to change my peace of mind,” Lemire said. “I know I’m doing God’s will; I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
Lemire grew up in a Catholic family and had an aunt who was a Sister of Charity. She had visited the convent but was never pressured to join.
“I was dating a nice fella from my church, and my senior year he asked me to marry him,” Lemire remembered.
She asked him for time to consider her options—college, joining the sisters, marriage and family or something entirely different.
As the months dragged by, her young man became impatient.
“I was starting to get a little nervous. I knew I had to make some kind of decision,” Lemire remembers. “I went to the sisters’ chapel to pray, and I told God I needed to know within a month.”
When her young man broached the subject of marriage again—rather angrily this time—Lemire knew she had to say, “No.”
“When I went back to the sisters, it was very easy to say, ‘Yes,’” Lemire said.
That was in 1978. Lemire made her final vows with the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church in 1985.
Lemire’s voice is filled with a subdued joy when she tells the story. It almost sounds as though she has to keep her joy in check, in case it bubbles out willy-nilly during some formal meeting with building contractors or landscape firms.
Lemire believes that everyone has a call—not necessarily to a religious life such as hers—but to a vocation where they will find peace and fulfillment.
But how will they find what’s right?
“People live in the moment or on the fly,” Lemire said. “You need to make time for yourself; time for prayer.”
Isn’t that another addition to our already over-burdened to-do lists?
Not when that time apart can bring you answers.
“The more you get involved in prayer, the more you realize your need for prayers,” Lemire said. “You have to have that communion—that oneness with God.”
Many churches have pastors who specialize in “discipleship” or offer “spiritual skills assessments” or trainings.
Joining a church study group, inadvertently, can lead people to a sense of their vocations.
“There are people who have been in adult Bible study-type groups who have been caught by surprise by something they learn,” Wells said. “It causes an awakening in their own life.”
Cargill offers a nine-month course through the Bible that addresses a variety of spiritual and theological issues.
Wells didn’t find his call until he was in graduate school for law and criminal justice.
“I was very successful, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Wells said.
He attended a variety of churches, seeking God’s direction.
“I realized that God’s presence was real in a way that I hadn’t sensed before,” Wells said.
He wanted to share that with others, help them come to the same revelation.
Like Lemire, Wells stressed that spiritual “vocations” or “calls” don’t just happen to people considering the ministry.
“There is a call from God on everyone’s life,” Wells said. “There is a place and purpose for everyone.”