While at the store recently, I heard Madonna’s 1986 song, “Papa Don’t Preach,” playing loudly from the speakers.
I stopped in the middle of the aisle as she sang: “You’d give us your blessing right now, ’cause we are in love.”
When it comes to marriage or, in the case of a hit song from the 80s, having a baby, blessings make sense. However, the idea of offering a blessing to our calling, especially outside of a religious context, seems more abstract.
Growing up, we don’t often teach children about finding their calling. Rather, we encourage them to get a job or pursue a career and, as a result, less of us are familiar with our calling or, what’s more, what it means to offer it a blessing.
A few weeks ago, I went home to Arizona to visit my family, celebrate my mom’s birthday, and—to bless my calling. When I first let my mom and siblings know the reason behind my visit, they expressed excitement at the prospect of seeing me, but didn’t quite know what I meant by blessing.
After all, I’m single, not married, nor am I having a baby.
During my visit I sat down with my five nieces and nephews, ages 6-14, and shared that besides wanting to see them, I was also hoping to receive a blessing. Immediately, my 10-year-old nephew replied, “You mean like when you sneeze?”
“Well, yes, actually,” I said. “‘May God bless you’ originates from someone offering it as a means of protection. Which is, in fact, what a blessing kind of does for us.”
In order to help them further understand blessings and callings, I asked whether or not they each had a dream. My six-year-old niece replied that eating candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day was her dream.
After I smiled at her incredible wit, I told my niece a dream is a desire we have that, if we look deep enough inside, will reveal to us our calling. “For example,” I said, “I may have a dream of being a singer, a doctor, or, like you, eating candy all day, but none of these would be what my actual purpose is or what I’m called to do in the world.”
Unless we’re consciously connected to our lives, it can be easy to mistake a career for our calling. But a job, career, and calling aren’t always the same. Jobs can come and go. A career may change form and evolve throughout the years. Our calling, though, is something that isn’t defined by what we do—it’s part of who we are.
A calling is an extension of our soul—the purpose for which we are here.
So often we get confused and think that what we do for a living or how we earn an income defines who we are. It doesn’t. It would be wonderful if we could all earn a living with our calling and I believe it’s possible. But it’s not necessary. If we aren’t currently making a living from our calling, it doesn’t mean we aren’t living on purpose.
A good indication of our calling is that it’s always about love. It’s always about leaving the world better off than how we found it.
In 2015, one of my nephews asked me a question that completely changed my life and propelled me down a path of connecting more fully to my calling. His question exposed hidden layers of homophobia that, although seemed benign, were very much alive and breathing within myself and my family, perpetuating the closet and shame.
Being gay and growing up in a heteronormative world, my ability to say yes to my calling has enabled me to name and help prevent familial homophobia. To receive a blessing from my family, the very people who represent the place I experienced the most harm, has not only helped heal my own story, but it’s allowed me to more powerfully prevent shame from being included in the narrative of future generations.
To bless our calling is to know our scars and learn the truth of who we are. It’s forgiving how we may have arrived at discovering our calling and honoring the lives it will touch. For me, to receive a blessing specifically with regard to addressing homophobia, otherwise known as fear, is to intentionally, and purposefully, claim and align with love. Serving love—not anger, hatred, or blame—through our calling is the only way we can create true and lasting change.
In order to better understand our calling, we must learn how to read our lives. We need to listen to our hearts and our stories, we need to face areas in our life where there’s been harm, and most importantly, it’s essential we ask ourselves:
What do I love?
What are my gifts and talents?
What do I stand for and against?
These aren’t always easy questions to answer, but in the pursuit of answering them, we will uncover our calling. Even if we don’t consciously have an answer to one or more of these questions, if we look around at our life, we’ll be given a glimpse of what our calling is.
It was in a letter I wrote to my entire family, exposing what was behind my nephew’s question, that I first had the courage to stand against fear and take a stand for something I love: a world in which all children are affirmed and accepted. And by opening my heart and letting my words bleed out, I discovered one of the gifts connected to my calling.
That’s the difference between our calling and our career. Our career may not be how we uniquely bless the world, but living on purpose through our calling, which is the truest essence of who we are, is.
For those of you in the midst of understanding your calling, don’t let your job or career, or lack thereof, limit the potential of who you’re called to be.
Who we are is never defined by what we do.
For the next 30 days, each morning upon waking, I invite you to place your hand on your heart while your eyes are still closed and ask yourself, “Who am I called to be, what am I called to do, how can I serve, and what areas of my life can I bless?”
You may not understand the answer right away, but keep listening because your life is calling and by offering it a blessing, you will live even more on purpose.