04 January 2007

Called to Write, Right?

Danger, Will Robinson.
I’m going to step on toes, the toes of my friends, the toes of my enemies. Heck, I’m going to step on my own toes. But there are some things I’ve been thinking about, and I think they are worth thinking about. Today’s post will be the first in a series of thinkings, some of which will be writing related, some political, who knows where I’ll go.
Today’s: the idea of being called to write.
Let the games begin.
What exactly do we mean when we say that God has called us to write? A road to Damascus experience? Why do we think God has called us to write? And do we believe with equal force that God called the plumber to plumb? If not, do we believe that we are more important than the plumber? We writers tend to be the romantic sort. I don’t mean romantic as in Love Story, Affair to Remember romantic, but romantic as in French Revolution, Liszt, Romantic Period sort. Being called to write is a very romantic notion.
And although I believe that God is both sovereign and intimately involved in His creation, I wonder if we put too much blame on Him sometimes.
In college, I believed I was called to the music world. Majored in music. Had plans all set up for a master’s in music. I was going to Boston. Then, spring break of my senior year, I couldn’t ignore this “calling” any longer. God told me to go to seminary instead, I knew. So go to seminary I did. Four years of it. Greek and Hebrew and exegesis and theology and preaching. The works. And I knew within the first semester that God called me to missions. Overseas missions. Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in the way. Focused, I was. Studied cultural anthropology and missions philosophies. Honed in on Italy and studied their culture and customs. Applied for TEAM mission board. Communicated with a team in Italy. Then. And then. I met Chris my last semester of seminary. He was not headed to permanent overseas missions. I cried. A lot. I almost broke up with him many times. He almost broke up with me many times. All over the missions thing.
But we ended up together. Happily married. Very happily married. Sigh of contentment. God called me to Chris. And then God called me to writing.
You see what I’m getting at? Where am I getting this notion of calling? Or am I bathing my own desires in holy water?
After I graduated from seminary, I worked as a medical receptionist for a time. Make no mistake. I never felt called to that! My friends in the office are very good at what they do. Organized. Efficient. Great with the patients, even when the patients leave spittle on the glass window from their rants and raves. And they like the job. They like the people, the environment, doing something they are good at. Nobody ever said they were called to be a medical receptionist. But do it they do, and very well.
I’m not a Deist. I don’t believe God just wound some cosmic clock and then left it all up to us. But where did we get this calling language?
People in other cultures, and by other cultures, I mean specifically the Two-Thirds World, are too busy trying to survive to be called to something specific. Don’t get me wrong. Great writers and artists and artisans emerge from the Two-Thirds World, but do they write because they are called or because they have something to say and the talent to say it?
I think this idea of calling is a bit on the Western culture side, heavy with North American ideals. What Color Is Your Parachute? and all that jazz.
But here’s also what I think: God gives us talents and he gives us desires and if we choose to pursue them in His will, He uses them in His kingdom work. He uses everything. In my life, he’s using my music. He’s using all that theological and cultural anthropology training. He’s using my love of writing and reading, two loves I’ve had since I can remember. Do I have to write? Yes and no. I love it. I always have and always will write. It’s hard. It digs. It forces me to think about God and His creation and His kingdom in different ways. But I don’t have to in the sense of publication. I choose to pursue that. I’ve prayed about it. And God will do with that what He will. I know that it depends on Him.
Here’s also what I think: we are called. Called to love, to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, to feed the poor, to follow Christ. I can find that in the Bible. But I talk more about my calling to write, to specifics, than I do my calling to incarnate Christ.


Michelle Gregory said...

Surfed in from LL Barkat's site. Reading this made me think of one of my favorite quotes.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman

Willowtree said...

Woa, I get frazzled trying to decide which of my three grey t-shirts to wear!

That kind of thinking can keep you awake at night.

If you finished seminary, how come you didn't go into preaching full time? I would have thought that you would find it more satisfying. Maybe a post on your reasons could be interesting.

Gina said...

Amen to that! I've never felt "called" to write. I just know that's where I shine and where God has gifted me. I have other interests and dreams, (living in Italy amoung other things) that have been dormant, and may or may not rise from their slumber.

But I agree, we're called to be like Christ. I hope God uses my writing for his glory, but right now my focus should be glorifying Him in all I do.

That's still something I'm trying to learn.

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Those are some good thoughts, Heather. I have some different ones, but I decided it got too long to put into the comments. I'll post them on my blog later this week. I want to make sure Mike Snyder's good news gets enough time in the sun. :)

Pamela said...

God's Gift

Your gift

Christianne said...

Wow, Heather. I got completely swept up into this post. I've never heard your voice, but I like to think your actual voice communicated itself in this post. Thank you for writing it and for saying that the Main Thing needs to be the Main Thing: God's kingdom, and His love.

L.L. Barkat said...

I think about this a lot. And it's good to hear it articulated more clearly than the way it knocks around in my brain.

Andy Crouch once said to me that writers should only write if called to... by God or by some entity (as in, some publication sees your talent and asks you to write). The "God calling" was something he thought probably happened less than the "entity" thing.

I think we can know when we are God-called if things happen more from the outside... if indeed we are being chased and captured, perhaps even against our wills or our feelings of adequacy.

Jeanne Damoff said...

Well stated, Heather. (Or do you prefer Yoda? ;) You make some excellent points. I think this discussion can at least in part be a matter of semantics. I wrote a ditty on MA titled "Called to Write" but I wasn't thinking of it in terms of biblical calling. It was more along the "gifted to, inspired to, led to" vein. I do believe God ordains our steps as He promises. So, in that regard, I believe He "called" you to music and seminary and marriage to Chris. Problems arise when we assume we know why God has called us to certain pursuits. Perhaps He called (directed) you to seminary to learn more about Him and to meet your husband. Perhaps your passion for missions will play out in your stories. All of this falls under the category of "calling" for me.

I haven't so much "heard" God call as I've felt the pressure of His hand steering me this way or that. He has plans for each of us and He's certainly powerful enough to bring them to pass. I see those plans as His calling, and each day when I pray, "Thy will be done," I believe He'll answer according to them. It may mean closed doors, thwarted dreams, or other frustrations for me, but faith brings me back to peace. God is on His throne. I belong to Him. No one can hinder Him or snatch me out of His hand.

God calls me to write like my mom used to call me to dinner. No Damascus Road action here. Something more along the lines of tuna casserole. :)

Smalltown RN said...

Good questions and thought provoking...great post...

BTW Part 3 of the "Wolfden Bar and Grill" is up over at my blog...check it out and see what you are up to ....

Smalltown RN said...

Good questions and thought provoking...great post...

BTW Part 3 of the "Wolfden Bar and Grill" is up over at my blog...check it out and see what you are up to ....

Dineen A. Miller said...

"Calling" is a personal word, I think. It can mean so many different things. Perhaps that's where the danger lies, when we apply it to others and assume it means the same to them. In the end, do we wind encouraging or discouraging? Often, I think the latter.

I agree that we are all "called" to manifest Christ. And if we do that by using the gifts God has given us, being careful to put Him at the center of our motivations, then perhaps we are doing what we were "called" to do.

In a way, it's like salvation. Some of us come quielty to Christ in a slow process. Others recall earth shaking experiences that rocked their world. Does either diminish the fact that each person is saved and guaranteed a place in eternity?

And finally, what's so amazing (and what I am now learning) is that God uses it all. He has a purpose we can't understand. What may seem to us a wasted meandering of our time could in actuality be a path of purpose, seed planting, growth, and restoration disguised in a variety of endevours. He uses it all to His gain, His perfect purpose.

And while it may all seem like random pieces to us now, He sees and knows how they each fit together like a puzzle creating a magnificent picture. I look forward to one day seeing the puzzle completed and understanding the "big picture."

Carol said...

Led, directed, gifted, called, tomatos, to-mah-towz...

Where did the desire in our hearts come from? The Psalm says He will give us the desires of our hearts when delight ourselves in HIM, not our fleshly wants and concerns.

So, maybe he directed you here and there to equip you to do something later, so you'd meet your husband, so He could use you at some point that you're not even aware of...

Or so you could write this post. Which was very thought-provoking, I might add. Keep thinkling!

Kevin Stilley said...

Nice post. I think that we rarely know our calling beyond the present moment.

Michelle Pendergrass said...

There are times God deals with each of us as individuals, I'm sure of it and others when we are His collective body.

The body gets a cut, it heals itself. It doesn't need someone from the outside pushing it along. If the body breaks a bone, it might need a little guiding. Put the cast in place and then it can go about its business.

Then there's the body that cuts a limb off. With much help from external sources, it can be stitched and mended and left to heal.

I think you're probably the cut and I'm the cut off limb. ;)

Heather said...

These are some great thoughts and discussions.
WT - I didn't feel comfortable working in a church. I enjoy working more outside the church while still being involved in the church through other teaching engagements, community, worship, etc.
I do agree that whether God nudged me in certain directions or allowed me to go in those directions, He used them and is using them. I teach flute and piano lessons and just love to play. My cultural anthropology and theological training is used everyday in both my personal relationship and growth in God as well as ministry and passions.
I like to question assumptions. We use this phrase "called" quite often in ways that I don't see in the Bible. (This is not to say that that means we are using it wrong. I don't believe that everything has to be explicit in the Bible to be lived in everyday life. We develop our theology and community and identity in the Bible; we see God's authority through the Bible.) What I see in the Bible are people working jobs. In the culture that creates the setting for most of the stories in the Bible, you generally worked the job your father before you worked. (Women worked to support the household as well.) What I see is Jesus either calling them out of their jobs to be evangelists (as in the 12 disciples and Paul) or to proclaim Him in the lives they already lived. That's why I question our use of this phrase "called to write." I think, personally, I identify with Gina's description. But God uses different people in different ways.

Willowtree said...

Thanks Heather.

Jennifer said...

"God gives us talents and he gives us desires and if we choose to pursue them in His will, He uses them in His kingdom work. He uses everything." Yes, yes. This is what I believe. If we allow God to do so, He will take our gifts and merge them with our passion (such as writing) in a way to both glorify Him and fulfill ourselves.

Robin said...

"And although I believe that God is both sovereign and intimately involved in His creation, I wonder if we put too much blame on Him sometimes....Where am I getting this notion of calling? Or am I bathing my own desires in holy water?....I think this idea of calling is a bit on the Western culture side, heavy with North American ideals."

Good piece and these lines resonated with me particularly. I guess part of it is an issue of semantics, another part is being confined by language, vocabulary, the inability to express ourselves with originality. We feel "drawn" to something, led to follow a gifting, and because we're limited by our language, we choose to refer to it as a "calling"; and almost "stamp" it with God's approval by doing so. You said it best, the "bathing my desire..." perspective.

As Jesus is incarnated in my life, isn't that living out His "calling" no matter what I "do"?

C. H. Green said...

Great post!