But now, this is what the LORD says, He who is your Creator, Jacob, And He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
Isaiah 43:1 NASB.
Our call is more about WHO we are to be, and less about WHAT we are to do.
In an hour our youngest will come downstairs in her mother’s arms and say with a grin only toddlers have, “Hi Dada.”
She calls me by name. I am called to be a father.
My wife calls me “Nate.” My parents call me “Nathan” (or “Nathan Scott!” when I was younger – we all know what that means). My friends call me “Pinches.” I have many names and I have many callings. For a long time, I thought my calling was to become a doctor. I was focused on what to do. To become a doctor.
Seven years ago, our first child was born. My wife was in residency, we had been married three years and I had just finished my first round of applications for medical school. I was rejected by all of them. Since grade school I had felt called to be a doctor, a pediatrician to be specific. I studied biology in college, took the MCAT (twice) and worked for 4 years in a hospital. Rejection was very hard.
When our son was born, things slowly began to shift. First, I struggled to find a job in general. Then I struggled to find one that would pay more than the cost of his daycare*. All the while I was looking into ways to keep following my call to be a doctor. Maybe a program after my wife’s residency? Gradually, through reflection on long runs in the woods I realized something. As I looked at our future as a family if I tried to be a dad, a husband and a medical student, one of those three things would fail. And I knew I couldn’t let my role as husband or father down.
As I looked ahead, I saw my callings coming into conflict. When I considered the conflict, suddenly I knew the order of my callings. First dad and husband (those are so intertwined it’s not worth teasing them apart). Second as a doctor. But when I separated the archetype of a doctor (who) from their daily role (what) I began to realize I could follow my call without actually becoming a doctor. My callings were about more about WHO I was called to be, and less about WHAT I was supposed to do. I still needed to provide as a husband and father, but maybe not as a doctor. I began considering other work.
My story is not unique.
If you listen to your names, you will hear your callings.
Who are you called to be?
Start with the names God has for you. Beloved, Child, Redeemed, Friend. Then move your way through your strongest relationships. For most this starts with your family, then to friends of virtue**, then to extended community.
Work we get paid for often lands in the extended community. The ordering of who you have been called to become will naturally show up. It would have been selfish for me to chase the name of doctor, if it meant sacrificing the name of dad and husband, names I had already been called. The conflict of my calls clarified WHO I was called to be, so that I could learn WHERE to go and WHAT to do.
So what is my call? Was I wrong to pursue becoming a doctor? No. Those years of study, struggle and most importantly time with patients, profoundly impacted my life. I did those things precisely because I followed a call to be a doctor. But when my calls conflicted, I knew I needed to follow one and to pull the archetypes from the other. Doctors are teachers, they are studious, honest, kind, forthright. They come alongside hurting families and help them bear their burdens. I can do all of that, but in business. Which is why, many years later I started CappaWork.
Don’t agonize about what you are called to do. Instead, listen closely to who you are called to be. Start with the names you have been given. The what will follow.
What names have you been given?
Walking with you on the path,
P.S. The journals are being printed as you read this. Soon and very soon, they’ll get in a container and ship their way to my house. Then I’ll put yours in a box to you! Until then, who are you called to be?
*That year of struggle was actually what prompted me to do the work of creating this journal. I desperately needed it that year but didn’t have it. I was in a new place, had no schedule and was untethered. Had I not followed the call to become a doctor, I wouldn’t have created the book you will soon hold.
** Friends of virtue are a particular type of friend, one that is oriented toward your good. Aristotle writes about friendship in this way. I’ll cover it in a future blog.