Today’s post requires an explanation.
I’m taking a class at a local Christian College (the Kilns) called Personal Calling and Mission. For the midterm project, everyone had to give a “sweet spot” presentation to illustrate what each individual was passionate about, and to apply learned concepts in the class. The following post was my sweet spot presentation (given in speech form), so know before you dive in: It has nothing to do with pop culture, it’s quite personal, has no pictures, and, for a blog post of mine, it’s lengthy, my friend.
Quite lengthy. Should you choose to proceed, do so with caution.
I have a name, but it might tell you more if I told you something different about myself: I am an INFP. According to the well-known Briggs Myers personality test, that stands for Introvert, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving.
In my case, or a condensed version of it, that means I’m a sappy, wildly imaginative person who’s bad at small talk and has a sometimes questionable work ethic.
I admit to a certain amount of temptation during the test to manipulate my answer. I was kind of hoping for a different personality type. I didn’t have a certain one in mind, but I was shooting for a specific niche, a sort of divergent style of personality with a whole new combination of letters (e.g., WOW), and it would lead to a secret encoded page in the back of the book that said, you were meant to do, no doubt about it, [fill in the blank].
That didn’t happen.
I actually ended up with the same personality as someone else in the class, which kind of felt whatever the opposite of empowering is.
I found myself wishing, against all the force of my common sense, that I had gone first so I didn’t, heaven forbid, look like a copycat. To explain away that last statement, I want to remind you, I’m the youngest of three daughters, and the closest in my family to being a toddler.
My prologue to this class, Personal Calling and Mission, starts several weeks ago. I was looking over the term’s available classes with a friend, and she pointed to one I was thinking of taking, and asked if at the end of the class, someone was going to hand me a slip of paper identifying my true calling in life.
I responded, pretending to joke around, “I certainly hope so.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t continue to hope so throughout the class.
A lot of things scare me, but few so much as the future and the massive and potentially damaging effect that I am capable of having on it. This fear, I’m sorry to say, definitely crept into my early approach to the class. For example, as I was writing down my five-year-out goals, I initially held back – because what if, in five years, I look back on these goals and haven’t accomplished them? Are my grades in this class dependent on the 22-year-old me being a successful adult? I feel very uncomfortable placing so much responsibility with someone I have yet to meet.
I think that says a lot about me.
And whose goals and priorities don’t shift through the years?
When I was about seven years old, I wanted to be a professional singer. I sang all the time, to the point where my parents were forced to institute a “no-singing” rule at the dinner table. Of course it seemed like the eventual best choice to sing and get paid for it. That’s what a life calling is all about, anyway, right?
Today, due to many, many issues with it for me, the singing dream is gone. But one thing that stands out to me about that age in my life is from when that dream was still alive and well. I had just told an older friend about my aspiration, and she replied,
“Well, every little girl wants to be a singer.”
True. But few things really tear down a dream like being told that the dream is commonplace – and not only commonplace, but a rite of passage, a phase that you’ll eventually get over.
I’ll concede that it was a realistic point of view, but in the worst way. Reality has its place, and that place is at least three kingdoms away from the hopes and dreams of seven-year-olds.
Furthermore, I believe I stressed earlier that the last thing I don’t want to believe that I am a copycat. I’ve certainly never wanted to believe that I belong in a collective group entitled, “every little girl,” a group that will one day collectively grow up and develop realistic aims.
I find, however, that that little soundbyte has stuck with me.
Of course, it’s been several years and dozens of “when I grow up”s since then. I’ve been through detective, spy, librarian, waitress, receptionist, married to a rich guy, masked vigilante, and coroner, but as of the past few years, I believe God is calling me to write in some fashion. I would love that to include a career as an author or screenwriter, but I haven’t gotten to look at God’s road map yet.
It’s wonderful to know at least a facet of your calling, and to be able to meet with others who seem to have the same one. I have a lot of writer friends – being a writer surrounded by writers is the best thing in the world in a way. There’s a whole community of people who think like you, share ambitions with you, and can help you, but in other, more selfish ways, there’s also a downside. For example, you see firsthand just how much better your friends are than you at doing the thing you love. You see how many people there already are in the career field, doing the thing you love, and then, if you’re me, there’s also a little voice that chirps every so often in the back of your head,
“Well, every little girl wants to be a writer.”
Even without the original statement that this one is derived from, I believe I would still feel this particular anxiety. It’s a very me fear. I’ve already said I don’t want to be in the “Every Little Girl” class, but it it’s even worse to worry that I won’t even be part of the acceptably gifted ones in that class. The writers that inspire me so much are the ones I’m terrified to be compared to.
As a result of this sort of fear, I have found myself in a trap: believing that to succeed in my own eyes means to succeed in the eyes of everyone else. Therefore, to improve in this area, I start to think that everything about me has to point toward my someday writing something that everyone will like.
Earlier in the class, when we were writing our short-term and long-term goals, I remember being a little bit disappointed with mine, as they turned out to have nothing whatsoever to do with what I want to be when I grow up. However, if I have learned anything in this class, it’s that “what I am when I grow up” does not stop or start with a career. It’s just in the mix somewhere. Furthermore, if our primary calling is to make God happy and my principal aim is to make strangers like me, then I’m doing it very wrong. Why would the opinion of a clay pot mean more to me than the opinion of its potter?
Everyone has their own areas of expertise and “transferable skills,” as the class text, Live Your Calling calls them, and there’s only one opinion of how we use ours that should matter to us: the One who created them.
My transferable skills started with writing, editing, and designing/creating for preferred career inclusions.
Those three are things I love – and coincidentally, things that seem to fit well into my personality type.
The book’s description for INFP said, among other things, that this particular group of people care intensely for people and ideas, and are drawn to careers in which they can foster growth and development in others. I really found this to be true in me.
Now first: Lord knows I am not exactly qualified to be the wellspring of growth and development. I still get a stomachache when I think about paying bills, and I’m undoubtedly long overdue for most of my impending maturity. But what I do learn, I want to pass on. And what I have learned, I have always learned through what I love: through stories, and though words.
The whole art of words has grown and evolved, and it is always shifting into some new, beautiful medium to touch more people. You must love words; you must love the magic of communication to learn.
Words were never meant to be kept silent. If something is worth writing down, it is worth being sung, spoken, shouted, or whispered. More often than not, it is the verbalization that makes the words something special. As flames lick at anything to come too close, voices ignite words with a new life, unlocking the potential energy and turning it kinetic.
You won’t ever be able to avoid it– there’s a sanctity in words, and we’ve all experienced its glory. Even if that’s not something you tend to think about, you will always notice when that glory is spoiled. For example, I feel I can safely assume that all of us have had that terrible moment, in a classroom, in a Sunday school, in a club, etc. The group is eventually asked to volunteer to read a selection out loud and as that one kid raises his hand, he lifts up the words in print, and he slays them. Every word containing over seven letters has been stretched to an unbearable seven syllables, punctuated with question marks and nervous laughter.
In that moment, as you try in vain to block out the near heretical voice, you realize there is something magical in words written and spoken well, and it doesn’t take much to break the spell.
People have used words to build wonderful causes for the advancement of good and to raise armies of terrible evil in equal measure.
The gift of words is so powerful that God literally filled volumes with his own purest and truest of words just for us.
How crazy is that?
One of the best bits for me in those heaven-inspired volumes is in Deuteronomy 31:8. It says, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be discouraged.”
I always feel, when I read my Bible and trip over a verse about fear, anxiety, and discouragement, that God is trying to kindly slap me in the face. I do find most things terrifying, and as I said earlier, one of the primary subjects in that broad “most things” category is the future.
My typical strategy for overcoming fear or discomfort is pretending the cause of that fear or discomfort does not exist.
For a very vivid example, when my dog, whom my family and I had had for as long as I can remember, died, I didn’t even tell my oldest and closest friends about it for a week or longer. My infallible logic was that if I didn’t think about it or admit it, it didn’t have to have happened, and I didn’t need to be sad about it.
That might be more sad than pathetic if it happened years and years ago, but it didn’t. It happened last August.
So it follows that when I’m scared of the future, I tend to pull on my forever-young attitude and pretend none of my questionable and lazy choices will ever have an adverse effect on my life.
One of my core values, as I found during the course of this class, is laughter/fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that – but when it starts to take precedence over another of my core values, truth, then there is a serious problem.
That’s what I’m trying to change. If anxiety and the avoidance of it is the driving force in my decisions, then I’m not going to live up the potential God created me for.
That’s what I love about Deuteronomy 31:8; it’s tailor-made for fearful people. It says “He goes before you.” God is with you now, absolutely. But not only that – he’s already been there with you. He’s been there before you, with you, and after you. He is eternal – no matter how much we’ve messed up and we will mess up, we are incapable of messing Him up. He created us on purpose, and He personally tuned our unique weaknesses and strengths. He knows very well what we can’t handle, and He’s given us every gift that we possess to handle what we can. There’s no way you can cling onto God’s arm too hard. If you were to even ask Him to carry you for a while, He wouldn’t refuse.
He hasn’t refused so far.
He knows this path, and He’s far steadier on it than you or I will ever need to be.
Every little girl wants someone like that.
I know I am beyond blessed to be one of His little girls, and I believe that knowing that is the first half of anyone living their calling.
The rest is faith.