Finding Your Destiny
In 2019, the Lord answered a question I’d been asking for ten years. You see, in 2009, I went to Asia believing God had called me to be a missionary. Four months later, I returned home to the US. Honestly, until recently, I’ve considered it my greatest failure. I have spent years asking God, “Why?”; even questioning my decision to return home or whether he had really told me to go in the first place.
In his post, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, John Hawke asked some similar questions on this topic:
- Is “calling” (as we typically define it in mission) even a thing in the first place?
- Was I ever called originally? If so, did I get un-called? Can you get un-called?
- What does it say about me if I want to leave this calling?
- Is this reason to leave evidence of God’s will? Is it from the enemy? Is it from my flesh?
Exploring these questions isn’t easy. And I don’t think it’s as black and white as we’d like it to be.
7 Minute Read
By Galina Hitching
Did God really call me to Asia? I believe the answer to this question is “yes” and also “no.”
God gave me the desires of my heart by taking me to Asia and he used that experience to grow me in ways I’m still realizing.
He was also taking me on a journey to discover that my “calling” wasn’t about a vocation or spiritual gift. Instead my calling is to pursue and know him; the same as it is for each of us. As the good Father he is, he was taking me on a journey to protect me from the harm of committing to long-term mission when that’s not where he wanted me. In true fashion, he took me the long way around, giving my stubborn heart time to be broken by his relentless love.
Is “Calling” Even a Thing in the First Place?
Based on my experience, I would have to answer “No.” I know we use this phrase a lot. But in reality, I’m not comfortable with that description. I don’t believe we are called to mission. I do believe God guides us, gifts us, and leads us in very specific paths. For some that means a life or a period of time in mission. For others it’s being a mom, a manager, or a mechanic.
The concept of “calling” creates a world where missions isn’t for everyone and only an elite few are chosen. Those who haven’t received their call need to pray harder or just accept they are second-rate Christians. That concept is not congruent with what I read in the Bible where men and women of all social strata are called to be saints and priests to our God.
The only condition I’ve come across is that we must first be children of God. After that, we’re all one body called to glorify God and be conformed to his image and share the hope of the gospel with those around us.
How to Deal With Being “Un-Called”
All the same, missions has always been a part of me. It shapes my family history. It shapes me. Letting go of what I’ve believed to be my calling to long-term overseas mission isn’t easy. It’s taken 10 years – longer really because letting go is a process. It’s a process that can lead to guilt and shame. John Hawke detailed well the shame associated with quitting missions and ministry.
In able to move on to what God had for me it meant letting go of the shame I had associated with not being a missionary. I had to deal with my own sense of identity and even judgment of the non-missionary life.
Letting go of this idea of calling frees me to discover new areas and opportunities for ministry just as vital and “spiritual” as that of mission.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying God won’t lead us to full-time missionary service. And I’m not saying we don’t have a responsibility to world missions. What I am saying is this:
- Sometimes, we hold on to things because we think it’s God’s will when it isn’t.
- Sometimes, God changes our vocation, our direction, our life. And that’s ok.
- Sometimes, God is calling us to do something (for a season), but it may not be for the reason we think.
The Pressures of Calling and Finding Your Destiny
We’ve made a mistake in the US Church by spending too much time talking about how to find our calling; as a result, we experience pressure to fulfill a grand destiny. There is the expectation that we must pursue our calling and then we must endure through every hardship! Or worse yet, we believe once we find our destiny and calling, life will be nothing but rainbows and butterflies.
What about Romans 11:29, “God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn”?
As I looked at this verse and others on calling, I realized it was repeatedly speaking of our call to salvation. If anything, it was less about vocation and more about how we live as one who is called. Called by God to live a life of holiness (2 Ti 1:9), power (2 Th 1:11), and most importantly a life worthy of the calling (Eph 4:1, 2 Pe 1:10).
Our calling is to be children of God and to live our lives in pursuit of him. It’s not about vocation. No matter how honorable and necessary that vocation may be.
Yet, our true destiny is to shine like the stars (Dan 12:3), to be seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6), to rejoice with inexpressible joy (1 Pe 1:8).
That is not contingent on anything we do. It’s who we are. We are called to Christ.
When God Changes Our Roadmap
What a person does will change over the years. Sometimes that means listening to the Lord when he changes the path. Sometimes, that means striking out in faith even when there’s nothing discernable on the horizon. The Holy Spirit will guide us, but I’ve found the Spirit doesn’t always tell us exactly where we are going—or for how long.
Remember when the Spirit changed the direction of Paul’s journey in Acts 16? Or what about Jesus, Mary and Joseph? The angel directed Joseph to go to the land of Israel, but then warned Joseph again in a dream to turn aside (Mat 2). In this case, what seemed like a change in God’s directions was really the fulfillment of ancient prophecy.
Discerning In the Midst of Hardship
At times, we will face hardship and pain as we seek to follow Jesus. We are called to run the race with endurance. At the same time the Lord tells us his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Mat 11:30). In the midst of the hardship, when we feel we can’t go on, it is then we can find a depth of intimacy with Christ we would never experience otherwise.
At the same time, I’ve often mistaken driven-ness as obedience to God. God gives us strength to obey him, but being driven makes a burden that is too heavy to bear. One question to help us discern where the Lord is leading is this:
“Is my identity in this thing (or person), or is it in Christ?”
Answering this question opens our heart to hear if we are where God wants us to be. If we aren’t then he can show us what to do.
Where Does That Leave Us?
My calling, the one that makes me true to myself is seeking to become more like Christ. Your calling is the same. The specific details of our life will look different, but the core calling of all believers is centered in the person of Christ.
Is God leading you in or out of mission? I don’t know, but I do know it’s time for us as believers to give each other a bit more space and acceptance. There’s no shame in leaving ministry or changing directions. There’s also no disgrace in making mistakes. Even if we make the wrong decision, God is still sovereign and able to use our mistake to work his purposes in our life.
I’ve come to accept I don’t have to be a missionary. I can just be me. But, if one day God leads me to missionary service, that will be ok too.
Galina Hitching is a writer, artist, and wellness geek. She learned more from growing up around missions and traveling as a non-profit worker than she did getting her degree in Communication. Midway, Galina took a detour from her career by working as a Serve Asia volunteer. Today, she is using her experience in marketing and communication for the Great Commission.