What is a Calling?

Photo by  Richard Price  on  Unsplash  // Post by Jory Mickelson

Photo by Richard Price on Unsplash // Post by Jory Mickelson

When I am uncertain where to begin, I often begin with words. As a writer, poet, and preacher, words are not only how I express myself, but also how I think my way through the world. As the adage goes, “How can I know what I think about a subject, until I see what I have written?”

So let’s begin with the word “calling.”

1)      A strong urge toward a particular way of life; a vocation.

The problem with words sometimes is that they lead to other words. Vocation is a nebulous word in today’s world of unfettered capitalism. Almost all definitions I came across with vocation and calling mention profession, trade, or career. While there is something to be said for being suited to one’s work, I do not believe we are our jobs. Our worth is not determined by our paid work. Who we are at our core has very little to do with our outward productivity, our worldly achievements, and our socio-economic status.

Vocation can also be steeped in religious tradition; a vocation as a call to ordained religious life. And for some people that may indeed be the case, but for most of us, we do not have this call. So what can vocation mean to us outside of our outward profession or career track?

My favorite definition I came across says that a vocation is a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. Or as the calling definition mentions, “an urge.” This is a great place to start.

What are our urges? Not our surface urges to check Facebook, to get up and stretch, or to purchase the latest item in our personalized Google advertisement stream.

What are our deeper urges? What are our daydreams? What are the longings of our heart?

To be able to hear these in today’s world of continual distraction, we need to make space for stillness. For quiet. For wondering. We need to make space between our errand lists and our Netflix queue to come to know what is lurking under our surface, as the Irish poet William Butler Yeats says, at “the deep heart’s core.”

So stillness can lead us to listening. And listening can help us being to hear our own calling. Today I will leave us with a poem by William Butler Yeats that describes entering into the deep places within—the bee-loud glade of our own hearts.


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, 
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; 
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, 
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, 
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wing.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day 
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray, 
I hear it in the deep heart's core.