I wrote and edited some of the articles about people's calling or vocations for the special section in the Dec. 4 issue of WORLD while thinking about the calling of some Christians who died centuries ago, the calling of two actors, and maybe your calling, too.
First, the golden oldies: On a recent Saturday morning in New York City, My wife, Susan, and I visited a wondrous exhibit of illuminated manuscripts at the New York Public Library. Some medieval scribes worked for decades copying one text and decorating it with illustrations, ornate initial letters, and marginal drawings. Those with right hearts were determined to glorify God. Calling. Determination. The exhibit is there through the end of February, and it's free.
(If you visit, note the exhibitors' theological liberalism, evidenced in sentences such as, "a man who made a covenant with God, a man named Abraham." It was God, of course, who made the covenant, as Hebrews 11:8 relates: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called. . . . And he went out, not knowing where he was going." That's Abraham, but isn't that all of us, proceeding with limited knowledge? God in Genesis 12 merely tells Abraham to go "to the land that I will show you." No Mapquest. Not even an initial house-hunting trip alongside a Realtor. God says go, and we go.)
Second, two other golden oldies: That Saturday evening we walked over to Broadway to take in the new stage version of Driving Miss Daisy, astoundingly starring both James Earl Jones, age 79, and Vanessa Redgrave, 73. This esteemed actor and actress do not need to go on stage for 90 minutes eight times per week for the money. They obviously love what they're doing and do not want to retire. Calling. Determination. The play goes through the end of January and is excellent, but pricey.
(When God calls people to particular labors, that work is far more fun than retirement. Besides, as Hugh Ross—see "The happy warrior"—writes, "The experience, education, and training we gain in this earthly life" prepare us for our roles—perhaps, as Paul told the Corinthians, even judging angels—in the new creation. Able people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s can still gain experience and wisdom for their calling after death.)
Third, some contextualization to help us think about our own callings: The ancestors of most readers of this column, and my own grandparents, came to a new world. They weren't among those who remained in their old villages. We should not be among the many who, in the words of Hebrews, "shrink back and are destroyed." With God's grace, we are "of those who have faith and preserve their souls." With God's grace, we—alongside great scribes and great actors—can react the same way great quarterbacks do when it's fourth and goal: "Let's go for it."
(Leave it to the coaches to choose the security of a field goal. Leave it to union bosses to argue that our goal should be to spend enough years at a boring job to accumulate a pension. Leave it to most hobbits to stay home, but Bilbo and Frodo head down the road that goes on and on, down from the door where it began. They have frightful adventures, but look at what they learn about God's sovereignty, Middle Earth, and themselves. Calling. Determination.)
In this column I've been mixing earthly and godly callings, and the two are very different: One is an existentialist desire to make a mark and not to go gently into the dying of the light. The other is a Christ-centered desire to go wherever God leads us—or stay where we are if that is the best way to glorify Him. We can make an idol out of going and an idol out of staying, so it's not for me to say what's best for each individual, but I am now going to extend an invitation to readers who feel called to write and lead.
As WORLD publisher Nick Eicher reported in the Nov. 20 issue of the magazine, I now feel called to leave academics and devote all my work time to building WORLD. Early next year I'll write about how many of you can become involved in WORLD's expanding mission. Is God calling you? If so, be prepared to say yes. We're going for it.
Reprinted with permission of WORLD Magazine.