I came across this quote a few days ago by Jon Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot. It’s his response to the question of whether or not Switchfoot is a “Christian” band. Have a look…
“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.
The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.
Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps you yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.
None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No.”
This “schism between sacred and secular” that Foreman describes is interesting to me because as Christians we tend to use certain terms, certain lingo, like “calling,” without much thought or intentionality and it’s those very terms that introduce such a schism. To say that you are “called” to something indicates that God has somehow ordained it. Sanctioned it. Called you forth to this good work. And the term is usually employed to describe vocations that would be considered sacred, like taking a design job for Charity Water or interning for World Concern (both great orgs, btw).
Suppose, though, that you accept a new job, as, say, an administrative assistant for a flooring company because you like the work and you are good at it? Is that just a job? You’ll rarely hear someone say that being an administrative assistant is their “calling.” But is there really any difference between the administrative assistance and the non-profit graphic designer? As Foreman points out, the implication that one is more “Christian” than the other is erroneous.
I wonder where we got this concept of calling? I don’t think there is Biblical precedent for it. I suppose it could harken back to Moses being “called” to stand up to Pharaoh or Hannah being “called” to give up Samuel for the temple work. But that’s not the way we use it today. Today we use it to add weight to our intentions, our desires, our jobs, our spiritual lives, our volunteer work and if we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of not knowing where or to what we are “called,” we are left to feel as though we have somehow missed the mark.
A commenter recently mentioned that she believes her highest calling is motherhood and it gave me pause. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it at the time but I wasn’t sure that I would say the same. I knew what she was driving at. Being a parent is certainly one of the greatest joys of my life and has been meaningful beyond measure. But to say that it is the “highest calling” in my life would thus imply that all the other “callings” on my life pale in comparison and further perpetuate the peking order of “Christian” things versus “Non-Christian” things. Ultimately I think I would agree with Rachel Held Evans that as a Christian, my highest calling is not motherhood or my job as a birth doula or my volunteer work as a community group leader. My highest calling is to follow Christ. And that feels freeing to me. The pressure is off. The web developer and the admin assistant, the chef and the lawyer, the teacher and the truck driver, the architect and the dancer, the pastor and the scientist need not worry about whether they have “found their calling” but only whether they are being faithful to the call to follow Christ.
I’m still batting this around in my head a bit and I’m curious to hear what you all think. What’s been your experience with this Christian concept of calling?