“When it rings, let your father answer. The long-distance operator should be calling any minute!”
There was tension and excitement in our family as we waited for the phone to ring. My sister was a missionary in Hong Kong in the 1960s. During the three years she was there, we spent two Christmases waiting for our annual five-minute phone call with her. After we made a reservation for a certain day and time, the long-distance international operator would call us when she was ready to make the connection. My older sister, younger brother and I were each allowed 20 seconds to wish her a Merry Christmas and tell her we loved her. The remaining four minutes were divided between my mom and dad.
Today, we don’t think twice about calling long distance or even internationally. We assure a friend that we’ll be there if they need anything. Just call! We encourage people to give us a call anytime, even if we don’t mean that literally. But back in the day, even domestic, long-distance phone calls were expensive. To save money, I would ring three times and hang up to signal my parents that I’d made it safely back to college after a holiday. But those who had plenty of money to spare could make someone feel special with a long distance, person-to-person call.
Many people in the Bible, such as Abraham and Moses, received a divine, personal calling (Genesis 12; Exodus 3). The Lord literally called to Samuel and called him to serve as His prophet (1 Samuel 3:10). Jesus called each of His disciples (Mark 1:16-20; 2:14; 3:16-19). He called Paul with His own voice that reached into Paul’s heart and changed him forever (Acts 9).
A vocational calling is very specific. Today, some people feel they have been called by the Lord Jesus personally and individually. This is especially true of those called to serve the church or go abroad to spread the message of the Gospel.
But we also refer to some positions and jobs as vocations, a calling. Teachers, doctors, nurses, military personnel, fire fighters, police, and first responders feel their calling is more than just a job. Perhaps this is because all these positions include the idea of being a servant, serving others before considering one’s own needs.
Even if someone’s position or job isn’t elevated to the level of a vocation, they can still feel the sense of being called. As leaders we can make that happen. No one enjoys being relegated to the background, just a nameless part of an organization or company sitting at a desk or workstation. We can acknowledge those who are quieter, less assertive by making a point of asking them if we can call on them if we need their expertise or help. This small gesture can elevate what they do as something important to the whole, no matter how small their contribution. They have ownership in the well-being and success of our business, family, or church. They will watch for opportunities to step forward when called upon.
Jobs and careers and even vocations can change. Many people have second or third or several careers. But there is a higher vocation that affects everything we say and do. We are called by our Lord Jesus to serve, not to be served. Wherever we are. Whatever we do. Whenever we are asked.
No matter what our place in life, we have a higher calling. We are called “children of the living God” (Romans 9:26). We are called “into fellowship” with our Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9) and into an eternal life with Him (1 Timothy 6:12). We are called to live our lives as believers (1 Corinthians 7:17). And we are called by His grace to live a life filled with that grace (Galatians 1:6, 15).
We are called daily to be His holy people (Romans 1:7) to “live a life worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1). That calling can be a burden if we worry too much about pleasing our Lord to earn His favor. That’s not the peace He has called us to live in, the peace that rules in our hearts because of what our Lord Jesus has done for us (Colossians 3:15). After all He’s the one who makes us worthy of our calling, giving us the desire and the power to live as His children and serve others (2 Thessalonians 1:11). And it is solely by His grace that any of this is possible (2 Timothy 1:9).
All of this can feel overwhelming. When we feel the responsibility of our calling as His children is sometimes just too much, thank goodness we have a Savior we can call on. After all, our Lord Jesus had His own calling as a servant. He knows what to put into our hearts. And He’s always ready to hear us when we call.
The Lord Jesus is that dependable friend we can call anytime, anywhere. Even when we aren’t sure where our life is going, when we debate with ourselves what path we’re on, when we’re immobilized by a decision we need to make, when we’re sure we’ve disappointed our Lord Jesus again by not taking our calling seriously, He keeps calling to us. It’s true! He’s right there to forgive and encourage and renew our spirit.
We don’t have to worry about an intervening long-distance operator, and there’s no time limit to our conversation. He whispers to our hearts, person-to-person! He’s right there to renew our spirit and restore our JOY!