Living out my calling as an image bearer and partner in God’s purposes is the great life adventure. My calling has value, power and purpose. God offers me abundant life, but the enemy of my soul would like to restrict and control me. I have identified four threats I battle in order to care for my calling.
CLICHÉ: As I mentioned in an earlier blog, human-made “rules”, communicated as cliché men’s and women’s roles, can inhibit my calling. Although I do not find clearly delineated role lists in the Bible, I do find lists of spiritual gifts. These gifts do not have gender limitations; there is incredible variety and freedom, and they are very important for determining my personal calling focus.
If I am gifted in prayer, service, mercy, teaching, leadership, exhortation, evangelism, or discernment, my particular gift(s) will show up as I work out my calling – at home, work and ministry. Self-evaluations and confirmation by others have helped me know how God has gifted me. When I operate out of my gifted-ness, I experience both great fruitfulness and great joy.
CULTURE: Having lived and worked internationally for many years, I have heard cultural excuses for limiting men’s and women’s opportunities and responsibilities. Although I have a deep respect for culture influences, Biblical truth is my greater standard. Every culture has wonderful richness that we can glean, but no culture is perfect. Some culture norms go strongly against God’s commands. Jesus acted very counter-culturally in His interactions with women, in His service to the disciples, and in His encounters with sinners. When I choose to go “against the flow”, it sometimes carries a price – from subtle scoffing to strong criticism – but my most important priority is to honor God… and sometimes I get to demonstrate a new healthy example for others also.
COMPARISON: I am often my own worst enemy. Problems arise when I compare my gifts and desire another’s, or “grade” the gifts with different values. I criticize and judge others (“It’s not spiritual to…”) or struggle with feelings of inferiority and less value (“I should do more of …”). I take sides and disapprove of contrasting work choices, roles in marriage, and ministry involvement rather than embracing differences and expressing acceptance to others. Comparison is a powerful and effective weapon of the enemy. I’ve learned that I can fight comparison by giving grace and encouraging others instead.
COERCION: The extreme side of control is coercion – abuse, violence, exploitation. While I have never experienced these extremes, others do – especially women. Anytime I attribute less value to another (jokes, insults, inequity), I disrespect God’s calling for that person and weaken defenses against coercion. I am learning to respect and defend God’s value and purpose for every person.
One last thought… I can lay down any of my gifts/abilities/passions voluntarily and joyfully for a season – moment, day, …years even, in order to care for or serve another. Jesus limited himself for a time for us. However, that decision should not be imposed by clichés, culture, comparison or coercion… and it should always be done in the context of my value as an image bearer and my calling to be involved in God’s purposes.
I encourage you to get to know your unique gifting – also consider personality, experience, stage of life, etc – and then engage wholeheartedly in reflecting God’s image to a lost world. Enjoy the adventure!