Often when we talk about “calling,” we speak as though it’s an enjoyable and sometimes easy thing to do. Discussions around calling tend to be about small changes that we make in our life that end up bringing more love into the world and feel good to do. But calling isn’t always easy, and it’s not always just small tweaks that we make in our day to day life. Sometimes calling is hard or it hurts or makes you stressed, but you’re still called to do it.
I get it, having a calling to do something that you like and are good at is much more exciting to talk about and share with others. It brings an immediate sense of satisfaction and connection to the people that you’re talking with — you’re good at something, you’re doing it, you’re bettering the world, and now you’re sharing that message with others — “You too can stay inside your comfort zone and do wonderful things for the wider world!” You may tell people how you felt called to work at a church camp over the summer and be a mentor to the young kids who pass through, or you may talk about how you felt called to speak up about a controversial issue facing your congregation because you have the education and confidence to do so. These things are fantastic, and oh so necessary, but there’s a whole other side to calling that isn’t talked about as much.
What happens when we’re called to do something that we’re not so sure about, maybe even something that we don’t think we’ll be any good at.. What if we’re called to do hard things, difficult things, and maybe even fail a few times along the way.. What happens then? What happens if we flat out don’t like our calling, it’s too difficult, we’re having to give up too much? Does this make our calling any less real? Not at all.
My calling to serve here in Budapest, Hungary with the Reformed Church in Hungary is not an easy calling. It was heart-wrenching to leave behind my family and friends in the United States and it’s still scary to be here in a foreign city, rebuilding my life from the ground up. It worries me when my partners here in Budapest ask me to do jobs that I have no idea how to do, because I’m afraid of failing and disappointing them. I am a missionary serving in a post-communist country with a tense political atmosphere. I have no practice at how to do this, only a deep desire to put my passions and skills to work in the wider world.
That’s ultimately why I’m here: because I felt a pull to do something vastly outside of my comfort zone, even when it would have been so much simpler to turn a blind eye to what God was calling me to do in the wider world. I’m here because I think that this idea that calling is always supposed to make you feel good is false. I believe that calling can make you feel great and helpful and secure in the tangible ways in which you’re helping, but it doesn’t always.
Calling can be confusing and filled with uncomfortable experiences that force you to transform and think about the world in an entirely new way. This is why I’m so thrilled to be here in Budapest working with the RCH and their various mission offshoots, because I know that this hard part of calling won’t always be so hard. Eventually it will come more naturally to me: I’ll figure out the public transit systems, I’ll settle into my various roles here in the church, and soon I’ll begin language classes! But for now, I’m going to revel in the utter uncomfortableness that I’m currently facing, because I know that it will ultimately bring a sense of growth that is needed for all the other things that I’m going to feel led to do throughout my life.
Paying attention to this difficult side of calling is vital. For right now I’m called to be fully present in the awkardness that is the start of my journey here in Central Europe and to see the divine love that shines through in every person who helps me in this initial transition — and there are plenty of them!
Your adventure into following your calling doesn’t have to be as drastic as mine was, in fact, it almost certainly will not be! But don’t ever let your worries that what God is calling you to do in the world stop you from doing it. Maybe you’re feeling led start a discussion group in your congregation about a topic that you feel is relevant to the work of the church, but it feels like a lot to take on. Or maybe you’re feeling a nudge to make a career change, but the thought of taking that leap is terrifying. I urge you to spend time discerning what it is that you are being called to do, and then do it. Even if it’s hard or seems completely out of the realm of possibility, follow your calling.
It get’s easier, I promise.