There is something particularly liberating about the call from God because it is precisely that; a call for a purpose that emanates from beyond our inclinations, hopes, and desires. It should be pointed out immediately that rather than the interior, secularized version of “living our best life” a calling is cast of the model of kenotic pouring out of self that is made evident with the symbol of the cross. As an African-American, the ancestors who are acclaimed as following their call faced dangers and turmoils that are too easily truncated into points of romanticized history. The lives of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were constantly in danger precisely because they followed their calling. David, made later into the great warrior ancestor of Jesus, did not celebrate his calling but, rather, hid himself from the awesome responsibility of stewardship (1 Sam. 10:22).
As we emerge from the darkness of the pandemic, it will do well to discern the cultural collapsing of vocation with profession. Too often, a “calling” is conflated with employment or activity which can be monetized. People of faith are endlessly “called” to a new thing – Gen. 12: 1 – 3; Isa. 43:19; Ez. 36:26; Matt. 5 – 7; Acts 2: 1 – 4. The gift to discern the times (Matt. 16:2-3) in which we live and how our gifts best serve the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 12) offers no quantifiable charts or guarantees; faith is rooted in hope for things unseen. The dialectical movement between our individual impulses and communal responsibilities mashes our notions of self against one another. We are in conflict, worry, and doubt about the future. The element of water frenzied against itself creates the “foam” so often used as a symbol by Pablo Neruda. Discernment of calling can be frightening in these times still the refrain demands our attention:
“Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water.”