You may have known it for a while, or maybe it’s just made its way into your awareness recently- the longing to travel, the desire to write, or the hunger to help protect the animals.
Or it may be quieter than that – the ache to be in nature, the craving to bake, or the yearning to spend more time among children.
A calling is anything we have a strong impulse to follow. We don’t know where it comes from, but we do know how powerful it can feel within us. In fact, when we try to ignore the longing, whatever it is, much like those pesky telephone solicitors, it only strengthens in its persistence.
Distracting ourselves from stillness doesn’t work either. We hear its loud noise beating in our hearts the moment we awaken or lay our head upon the pillow at night. The pining for whatever is pulling at us is almost too much to bear.
So what do you do when you feel a longing you don’t understand?
There is only one answer- follow it, however strange or out of character it may be.
It is the only way to discovering your next step.
You (or those around you) may ask, “Are you out of your mind?” And the truth is yes, you are truly out of your mind.
A calling doesn’t ask us to think. It asks us to feel. But that level of feeling can be extremely frightening because we neither understand it, nor recognize ourselves in it.
This is the difference between a transition and transformation. Transitions are horizontal- we are looking for a new job to better suit our needs, learning better relationship skills to improve our marriage, or taking a class to help us move toward a desired goal. All of which are valuable (and scary in their own right), but tend to involve the thinking mind and a foreseeable destination.
Callings, on the other hand, aren’t horizontal movements, taking us from our current place to a future one.
Callings tend to be vertical, initiated by longings that take us by surprise. They drop us into places we can’t see. Something in us is pushing us toward roads we had no intention of traveling. They demand we listen, and when we don’t, our energy drains, our lives lose their luster, and sometimes our physical health becomes affected.
But in order to heed the call, we must listen and act with our hearts, and not our heads. The next step is revealed when we can compassionately be with our feelings of anxiety, grief, and discomfort without fixing, controlling, or making things better. We need to be available without distracting ourselves through television, internet, food, alcohol, or drugs. Only by listening to what is present, without demanding it to change, do we create space for feelings of acceptance, peace, and excitement to follow in its wake.
A calling whispers to us– one step at a time.
If we can have the courage to live one day at a time (and in our society, this does take courage), we will reap the gifts of such discipline. We will be led in small ways- call that person, go to that store, take that walk. Not as a voice, but as a longing.
And each time we honor our feelings at the moment (as best we can), we give ourselves exactly what we need to feel comforted and safe to follow the next longing.
And only in this way, will we allow old spaces to die away, fertile fields of emptiness to ready themselves, and new seeds to be planted- whatever they might be.
But one thing is assured. Your life is being lived for a purpose. When we can allow the Master Gardener that created us to sow new seeds, and open up places in ourselves we didn’t know existed, we begin the cycle of new dreams, new joys, and new fulfillments all over again. And once more, we find ourselves grateful for being alive.