What does it mean to feel called?

This month we are exploring identity and it seemed important as we do so to talk about call. In the Church we often talk about call in regards to ordination, but God can call all kinds of people to do all kinds of things. We can be called to do big things and little things. Paul (New Testament writer) loves talking about the various gifts of people in the Church and the Uniting Church has a variety of ministries that someone can be called to, even ordination is both Minister of the Word and Minister of Deacon.

Often when we think of call in the Bible we think of Samuel and Eli. Where the young boy Samuel heard a voice calling to him and thought it was his master Eli, it took 3 goes before Eli figured out what was going on and that it was actually a call from God..

I think this is a really good start.. It can be hard to hear and discern what God is calling us to do. It might require us a couple of times going back and forward, checking whether you think this is of God. It is in the end Eli who recognises what is going on and confirms the call for Samuel and shows him how to respond.

So what would I say about call? Make time to listen, if you think God is asking you to do something make time to check it out, go to your Bible, go to the places that you best connect with God and have honest prayerful conversations with God. In the Uniting Church we also have a Period of Discernment, it takes about 12 months and gives you a process to explore what God is asking you to do (particularly if you think it is a big thing!).

Talk to people you trust. I heard it once said to make a decision about something toss a coin (you notice in the bible they often do this!), notice when you get the answer, were you happy or disappointed, and that gives you an idea of what matters to you. As you talk honestly with friends you will get differing responses, part of the conversations will help bring clarity for you around what really matters, including the good the bad and the ugly that you might not have thought through. All of these sacred conversations are part of discerning God’s call.

Get your congregation, your community to pray for you. If you are wrestling with something, ask others to pray for you. It is amazing how many times when people have intentionally prayed for me it helps bring peace about the journey and often clarity. Sometimes it happens afterwards when someone thought of something they wanted to share with me about my situation. As a Church we often don’t pray together for someone, it is a private thing we do, but some of the most encouraging and supportive times for me is when my community has decided to gather around me to pray.

Find yourself a mentor.. Find a trusted elder who you respect to walk and journey with you, someone who can listen and ask questions of your ponderings. Someone who will pray for you and journey faithfully with you. Regardless of the conclusion, to take time with a saint is well worth it!

Some things to note:

It will not always go the way you think it should. I felt my call to ministry at the same time as I decided to follow Jesus when I was at a camp at 16. I was sure that I was called to be a youthworker in the Church but at that time there wasn’t alot of training for youth workers, and I got knocked back to attend Theological College. I ended up doing secular youth work at University. Ironically I then went back to study youth work at Theological College. I remember being so mad at God that I had to do both lots of training. As someone who now writes the training I have the advantage of knowing how both parts of our world understand and prioritise youthwork. It has never been wasted. As frustrating and difficult the journey has been at times trying to discern and follow God’s call, both the good and the bad have helped to form me for what God has called me to now.

You will not be the same. It is interesting that often when God calls people in the Bible, God changes their name. They are no longer the person they were before. When we follow God and allow God to direct our lives, (because we do think that following Jesus is a good way to live), we will be changed. You might not need to change your name but you will grow in new and different ways that you didn’t expect.

So how does it start? With a niggling that you need to think about something. Maybe someone has noticed something in you, at work, at school at Uni. Maybe the track your on doesn’t feel quite right. Maybe you are excited and curious about something that you didn’t expect, maybe you heard a call in the middle of the night, or a song you sing often is stirring you to something more. For everyone it is different. Ask yourself is this consistent with how I understand God, that I know through the life of Jesus? In the Uniting Church we believe it isn’t enough for you to hear a call alone, we hear God best when we listen together. So we test it in our local community and in the wider Church.

If your not sure what to do or who to talk to, all of us in the PULSE team are here for you. Reach out, the coffee is on us!

Remember you can keep in touch with PULSE by signing up for our monthly newsletter, or for further information contact our team via email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok.

Karen Mitchell-Lambert is ordained in the ministry of Deacon and is the team leader of PULSE.

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