Many stages of life have found me struggling to figure out who I am and what I am called to do with my life. As a single 20-something, I was convinced it was pouring my life into ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ. After marrying, my calling eventually merged with my husband’s as we shifted away from campus ministry to serve the local church. We also started having babies. It was a struggle for me to lose the title of Campus Minister. I loved my job with Cru and after leaving staff, I found myself as “just a mom” and “just a wife.” I missed the excitement and purpose of the campus ministry I loved and I grieved that loss in secret. Suddenly, I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Misplaced Identity and Idealism
Determinedly, I pushed myself out of that purposeless funk and poured my life into those babies. I spent hours of research and hard work to provide them with homemade baby food, the best sleep-wake cycle, and all Baby Einstein had to offer. As they grew, their little lives held a well-rounded calendar filled with playdates, library events, trips to the zoo, and free time at the park. My life’s call was their well-being. My purpose was to give them all of me.
However, with the addition of baby #3, I was officially sunk. I could no longer keep up with the ideals of motherhood—the work I had poured my life into for 5 years—my idealism and work ethic were suddenly weapons of mass destruction. My identity as the SAHM (who had it all together and loved her life) was shattered. I was bone-weary, depressed, and 3-Kid-Katie kept looking back at Had-It-All-Together-Katie with longing, guilt, and an innate pressure to perform. Finally, I surrendered and quit trying. With this came a shattering of who I thought I was and who I thought I would continue be.
From Falling to Flourishing
With this surrender and subsequent shattering came healing and clarity. I realized that I had idealized and idolized the pursuit of the stay-at-home mom, and subsequently had been ignoring who God made me to be. Healing came as I sought medical help and went back to work a few days a week (at the behest of my husband). In walking forward to follow God’s clear leading, I found a part of me that had been smothered and silenced. As that missing girl emerged, something mysterious happened: I enjoyed my time with my kids more. The productive and creative energy that had left long ago returned.
That was 8 years ago, and life has been a juggling act since then, as I seek to fulfill my callings both at home and out of it. Every year has been a bit different, but each year my callings become clearer and the implications of those callings easier. Learning from the mistakes of my past, there are several general principles that have been fruitful as I attempt to follow God’s specific plan for my specific family.
6 Lessons on Following God’s Calling
1.Time in the Word is non-negotiable. It is my foundation for life. This doesn’t mean that I study deeply everyday, but it does mean that I find ways to “meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8). More than I am called to work outside the home, I am called to seek intimacy with God and worship Him. I cannot do either if I am not in the Bible in such a way that it is continually in my mind and on my lips.
2. Look first to the One who calls me instead of what others are doing to the right and left of me. The callings of others are not my calling. If it is not black-and-white in Scripture (why #1 is so important) I must carefully examine and evaluate whether or not God has specifically called me to follow that specific path (i.e. homeschooling, organic food-ing, Dave Ramsey-ing, Fly-Lady-ing).
3. I am not what I do. In both seasons I shared with you (and many more we don’t have time for), I had found my identity in my position and title. My value was all tied up in my success (or failure) in those roles. When campus ministry was stripped from me, so was my identity and worth. When motherhood became a source of failure instead of accomplishment, it threw me into an identity tail-spin. I can no longer define who I am by what I do. Who I am is defined by what Christ has already done for me. (Yet another reason why #1 is critical.)
4. Don’t say yes to something just because it is a cultural norm. I don’t typically cook or do much cleaning. My kids (8, 10, and 13) and husband do their own laundry and make their own snacks and lunches—and have for years. My house is typically at least a bit messy, if not at a-bomb-went-off status. I don’t bring meals to people in need (gift cards serve them just as well!). Because I can’t do those things and do what God has called me to do as well.
5. Continually communicate with those whom I can trust to call me out when I get off-track. God gives us good council to help provide guardrails to keep us from taking on too much, or standing in the “safe” places for too long. For me, this is my husband, a few trusted friends, and mentors from afar through helpful books and other ministries. I have been able to let go of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc., because my husband and I are on the same page with what is most important when it comes to how I spend my time.
6. Never let my “little c” callings trump my “Big C” callings. I have spent oh-so-much time investing in and pursuing the temporal specifics while ignoring the eternal, universal commands in Scripture. I cannot expect to hear from God in the grey areas if I am ignoring His clear mandates on the pages of Scripture. I see so many Christian women agonizing over whether they should work outside the home, whether or not their kids should ride the bus, or if they should hire a housekeeper—and wondering why there is so much pressure and confusion surrounding their decisions. Yet they are not in the Word, not living life through the lens of the Great Commission, nor are they committed and involved in a local church (just to name a few of the obvious “Big C” callings in Scripture). We must focus first on the “Big C” callings, then the “little c” callings will fall more naturally into place.
I have by no means arrived when it comes to all this, but I am in a much healthier place. There is much freedom and peace that comes from being in the center of God’s will for my specific life and finding the specific sweet-spot for what God has created me to do and be. I pray that I can continue to flex and follow His plan as future seasons come and go.
Which of these principles do you need to embrace today? Any you would add to the list?