It’s gone viral. A 60-second clip of Jim Carrey’s recent commencement speech at an Iowan university is popping up on social media sites like so many dandelions on a spring day. In case you missed it, here it is:
I liked what Carrey had to say—up to a point. You see, we Americans often equate our calling with finding the sweet spot in our career or realizing a goal that brings in money, recognition or personal fulfillment. And I’m all for people fulfilling their dreams, as long as they’re legal and moral. But Christians must grasp the fact that a calling runs much deeper than getting a lucrative paycheck or meeting personal goals.
When I was a junior in high school, I got a big part in a play. That first taste of the stage made me want to become a star, trek to Broadway or Hollywood, hit it big, rake in the money and accolades. Later, in college, I decided I wanted to become a writer, become the next Stephen King or Ken Follett. This was my calling, I was sure of it. But, after receiving enough rejection slips from editors to wallpaper Bill Gates’ mansion, I discovered that writing the Great American Novel was harder than it looked. Over the years, I sank into disappointment as I settled for routine jobs and a middle-class life.
WHAT A BIBLICAL CALL IS — AND ISN’T
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul clarifies what a calling is – it is not a calling to an exciting career. It is not being called to do something only a prodigy could do, such as play the piano like Beethoven or concoct equations like Einstein. It’s not even what we typically think of a religious call, like being called into the priesthood or traveling to a dangerous land as a missionary. Merriam-Webster’s definition of a calling reinforces these beliefs—(1) a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence (2) the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages.
I’m not saying our job or skills can’t be part of our calling, but I am saying that they are not the heart of our calling. The New Testament word for call simply means to bid or to summon—it was often used in the ancient world to invite someone to a feast or banquet. Biblically translated, our God is throwing a cosmic party of salvation and has invited all to come.
Note that the source and sustenance of this call is God. It is God who makes us worthy of this call. It is God’s power that plants the call in us to desire good. It is God’s gift of faith that brings fruit out of the good works we are called to do. The call is not for us to realize personal dreams, but to fulfill God’s purposes in us. Whether you are a teacher or tradesman, salesperson or student, homemaker or homebuilder, God’s call is the same for all – to be saved and sanctified in Christ.
GOD WAS CALLING ALL ALONG
I’m a slow learner. After beating my head against the wall, realizing that my dreams of wealth and international stardom were never going to happen, I came to Christ at the age of 28. Or I should say, Christ came to me with His gracious call. I was “doing church” one Sunday like so many folks do, dryly performing my weekly religious duty. While we were singing the “Gloria Patri,” it was as if a portal opened up in the ceiling above my head and the marvelous grace of God began pouring down. Tears welled up as I realized that God had loved me and been calling me all along, but I had been too busy pursuing the call of the world, selfishly obeying the call of my own flesh. Over the years I slowly, sometimes painfully, had to relearn that the call was to become more like Jesus.
What would happen if you lost your job tomorrow? What if all your talents and skills were taken away? If that one big dream of yours never happens, will you still see your highest calling as following Jesus?
Writer and blogger Karen Yates writes, “I think about some of the people new to our church, who are breaking through strongholds, walking in recovery, and making tiny strides toward a better life. Most of them are living so in the now, in the everyday questions: Will I have enough money at the end of the month? Will I stay clean? Will I get to see my child one day? They take each day, one step at a time, one step closer towards their best selves, the people God wants them to be. This is how I have started looking at calling.”
WHEN YOU SAY ‘YES’ TO GOD
Jim Carrey told some college graduates that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. But I found another quote from the famous funnyman, this one from a Guideposts Magazine over a year ago: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
The question we all ask ourselves is, “How can I be more happy and fulfilled?” Rich is not the answer. Fame is not the answer. Not even doing everything you ever dreamed of is the answer. The answer lies within you. It’s closer than you think. When you say yes to God, and keep saying yes, you have answered your calling.