Just last month I was asked to come to a confirmation retreat to speak to a group of 8th graders about how I live out faith in my daily life. “Sure,” I responded when asked by the Faith Formation Director. “How tough can this be?” I recall thinking to myself. Having spoke in front of many different groups, young and old, I thought this would be just like any other.
However, as the date to speak approached, I found myself so consumed with work that I never really got around to prepare anything beforehand. “No worries though,” I said to myself. “I got this.”
Well, when I arrived, I realized there was an entire panel of speakers lined up for the evening, about 10 in total, and I was the only one under the age of 50. Come to find out, the reason us 10 were chosen to talk about living out faith in daily life is because each one of us is involved in some type of specific religious organization/ministry. For example, there was a lady who spoke about her life in the convent as a nun, another one who spoke about her work at Meals-On-Wheels, another one who spoke about helping at the Right To Life organization, and so on. Well, if any of you know me and what I do for a living, I was chosen because I work in the development department of a Catholic high school… so I guess that’s what I was supposed to talk about.
But, like I said, I had no idea why I was chosen going into the retreat, nor did I know what I was really supposed to talk about. So as I sat there and listened to the other 9 people give their 10-minute presentations, I heard each one of them talk about the specific role they perform in their own ministry organization. And believe me, it was really cool. Very interesting to sit there and listen to all these loving and faithful people describe their work and why they do it. They sacrifice a lot of their time, money, and talent for the people they help. Interestingly enough though, only one of them did this as their full-time job. The other eight had full-time positions either in business, education, health care, etc. So when they perform these ministry roles, it’s all outside of their regular 40-hour work weeks.
As I sat there though, I couldn’t help but put myself in these 8th graders’ positions and imagine what was going through their minds. I mean, sitting there as 8th graders, listening to all these older people talk about how they live for God and have sacrificed so much can be a bit intimidating I would think.
So finally the time came for me to take the mic. For me to talk about my work in the Catholic high school. But as I took the mic, everything began to slow down. I took a deep breath, looked down at my hands, looked up, and never mentioned a word about my work at the Catholic high school.
Because that’s not my ministry. And I would go as far to say that whatever it is that you may or not do for the Church or God isn’t your ministry either. And here’s why…
This may be a newsflash for you, and I’m sorry for being the one to break it, but you’re not called to do whatever it is that you are doing. God never called you to be a doctor, He never called you to be a teacher, He never called you to be a basketball or track coach, He never called you to be a chef, He never called you to be a scientists, He never even called you to be a priest or nun if that is what you are. YOU actually made that decision. You do what you do and you are in the position that you are in, because (hopefully) you have a passion for it and receive joy from performing the tasks involved.
You have been called, however, to be a Difference Maker. You are called to make a difference in each life that crosses your path. You are called to help each person you meet see the beauty in himself or herself. You are called to help each person free himself or herself from his or her deepest fears and darkest mistakes. You are called to help people find passion, purpose, and meaning in this all too often complex and numb adventure we call life. You are called to help people realize that they are loved for who they are, not for what they do. You are called to help each person realize there is a God and that this God is real and here, and that this God wants to be involved in every moment of his or her life. You are called to manifest the love, joy, peace, and mercy of God through your own love, joy, peace and mercy.
I could go on and on folks, but that’s what you’re called to do – to be a Difference Maker in people’s lives. Notice however, that you are not called to make people happy or please them. You are not called to make people feel good about themselves. You’re simply called to be true to them.
Thus, your job is actually less of a “calling” than it is a platform for you to live out your true calling to be a Difference Maker. Whether you are a doctor, teacher, administrator, bartender, waiter, CEO of a large bank, a priest, a nun, a soccer coach, an accountant, doesn’t matter. Whether you make millions or hundreds, doesn’t matter. Our jobs and the money we earn from them are nothing but platforms to perform our much deeper calling.
And I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. Many religious people think I am wrong or even crazy to suggest such nonsense. But, it’s just true to me.
I think the other way of thinking, this idea that someone may be called to “teach Spanish” or “coach basketball” is too shallow… too small. I don’t think anyone is “called” to perform such duties. Instead, like I mentioned before, I would hope people do those things or maybe even feel “called” to do those things, because they love performing the tasks involved with such work. So if you feel like you want to be a cross-country coach, then I would say it’s because you find joy and happiness from helping develop young men and women into athletes, and you are most likely good at doing it. If you are an accountant, then I imagine it’s because you enjoy working with numbers and find business interesting. But whether you are coaching cross-country or working with businessmen, the true calling is the same – to help those people you are around and with find freedom, love, peace… to help them find God.
It’s that simple. So stop over analyzing. Stop worrying about what you are called to do and just be. Just become the Difference Maker wherever you are and in whatever you are doing.
That was my 10-minute talk to the 65 8th graders that night. Am I right or wrong? You tell me. Start seeing each person you work with and around as someone deserving of love… it will change your life more than it changes theirs.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman