Life is a journey ~ and we’re all along for the ride. Someone once asked one of my Hospice patients, “What’s it like to know you are dying?” His question back was, “What’s it like pretending you are not?” Touché! We are all dying on this earth from the moment we are born, but it’s what we do in-between that is important.
Finding one’s purpose in life is a driving force within all of us. Dobrow & Tosti-Kharas (2011) described a calling as “a consuming, meaningful, passionate people experience toward a domain.” Yet, to me, a calling has spiritual connotations, as I believe that God has a purpose for each of our lives ~ and our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to find that purpose and to fulfill it!
I found it interesting that there is a renewed interest in “callings” in leadership, due to the idea that a calling is believed to be central to one’s identity, which enhances motivation and job satisfaction for those who are within their purpose. As a business leader over the years, I have seen the great difference in employees who have been within their calling and those who have not. There is a focus and dedication beyond a 9-5 clock that is ingrained in those who are doing a job that is within their life’s purpose at that point in time.
Yet, I also believe that our calling may change over time. I think we need to fulfill different puzzle pieces at different times in God’s great puzzle that we call LIFE. I found that when I was younger, my calling was to make this great difference in the world in a large way. I couldn’t settle for making small changes…the world was my challenge and I felt the need to do it all! I became president of nearly every local non-profit organization in all of Kalamazoo; I traveled throughout the nation, doing public speaking and trainings; and I served as a Senator’s wife and community leader throughout Michigan. In addition, the shallow part of me owned lake homes and drove fancy cars, believing those things were important for some reason. But God had other plans! And it was through a volunteer project that I uncovered a new calling for my life.
I remember the first time I volunteered at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. I drove there, not sure where to park because I was driving my new Jaguar and didn’t want one of the homeless people scratching it and breaking off my precious “Jag” hood ornament. But, after the very first introduction to the Mission, I felt a powerful calling and I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I soon became the Director and ran the Mission for five years, loving on the people who I crossed paths with on my journey. When one of my homeless friends became ill with cancer, I realized that Hospice wasn’t an option for homeless people because they have no real address. So, I became very involved in helping to design a Hospice program for this individual and others like him who were homeless – and soon felt God calling me into Hospice Chaplaincy. The rest in history!
I don’t know if we really make mistakes throughout our lives in our callings – or maybe we just have different pieces of God’s puzzle to fulfill at different times in our lives. But I think all of us have a purpose that God has planned for us long before we came into existence. And I think that it is through our calling that we become complete – in whatever role that may be. In Leadership Without Easy Answers, the author quotes a famous philanthropist who once said, “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” We cannot know the needs of others without hearing their voices and listening to their hearts. And it is through that understanding that we become effective, caring leaders to those who are seeking positive leadership from a compassionate guiding light.
 Stephen Woodworth, “Prophets, Priests and Kings: The Use of Metaphors in Training Global Leaders Towards Pastoral Identity,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 52.
 Ronald Heifetz, Leadership Without Easy Answers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 143.