There is a time in a man’s life when he must pick a direction, when one must decide what to focus on in the long term; a time to pick a battle, a mountain to climb, or a marathon to run. All such decisions often don’t come easily to us and as much as we’d like to blame it on our upbringing, taking responsibility is a sign of maturity: we start where we are today. But the question still stands: what is my vocation? You are not alone in the search for this answer.
To start with an extremely simplistic answer: don’t do nothing. This also doesn’t point us to just do anything and everything. But rather, to diligently stay put for the time being until you have a bit more clarity of how far the boat is from the dock and in which direction to jump. Many times we need to carry buckets from the well to water our garden while building an irrigation system: they might need to be done simultaneously. Similarly, perhaps you don’t know what you are called to be doing, but you do know it’s not what you are doing now. That doesn’t mean you are to quit but rather to keep working faithfully where you are while figuring out where to go.
There is a helpful approach to this age old question. One that stuck out to me continues to have an impact whenever I approach a decision to start something new, to change direction, or to halt the pursuit. To do this we need to take a look at our abilities, opportunities, and desires. If you imagine a venn diagram with three circles, the part where all three intersect is ideally your sweet spot and calling.
Whether we agree or disagree, our abilities come from two sources. In reality it’s one source, but for the sake of having more to discuss and to better serve you, let’s split it up into two. The first one would be your natural, God given, unlearned, not-worked-for gifts. This would be things such as your authoritative height, perhaps a projecting voice, maybe weak ankles, or maybe big bones. These all are part of your abilities and should be taken into consideration. The second source would be the things we have been taught starting at a young age. Perhaps you grew up building Lincoln logs and your dad was a general contractor. Maybe you spent your time learning to play music. Others may have spent hours reading while someone else learned how to raise chickens. Our character and abilities are shaped by our upbringing. This too is a gift from God and ought to be considered: What are my abilities? What am I capable of doing now.
We also need to take a look at what doors are open and which ones are closed. One way to look at this is by starting to look around where we are rather than looking to the other side of the world. The question to ask is: what opportunities are in front of me where I can use my abilities to serve and bless others? We often look towards the ends of the earth and neglect what is clearly in front of our eyes. The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fools are on the ends of the earth. (Prov 17:24) And someone once said that opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Opportunity needs to be triaged. Meaning we need to be selective. Let’s review what triage is once again. In our modern times, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements, sales pitches, and ideas from within. When this happens, we can get frozen stiff from all the noise like a dear caught in the headlights. When there is a multitude of opportunities, viewing them as a medic can help resolve the stiff neck. When there are multiple injuries and casualties in the midst of a war, (and we are in a war), a medic has to decide which patient to attend to based on the degree of injury. The medic places each injury into a class: 1) patient will survive with little to no attendance; 2) patient will not survive even with much attendance 3) medical attendance is the only way for the patient to survive. After going through this exercise, it becomes clearer on who to attend to or what opportunity to pursue.
As much as some don’t like to put an emphasis on desire, sticking strictly to duty (which is also important), desire is something to pay attention to. I’m not talking about desire in the case of lust, greed, or envy but rather desire that we have because we have been delighting ourselves in the Lord, walking in the spirit, and repenting of sin. These desires are such that seek to serve people, to build culture, and to be a blessing. John MacArthur was asked why he decided to be a pastor and his answer was, “Because I wanted to.” When we understand that all things are given to us from above, that all things are God’s, and that we have been made a new creation, we can prayerfully trust God for our desires and walk in wisdom in pursuing them.
With all this said, the place where your ability meets opportunity and desire ought to be something seriously considered. If you have a desire but no opportunity or ability yet, than perhaps it is a good time to start working on you ability while awaiting an opportunity and being faithful with the piece of paper on your desk.