For many years, I believed God’s calling on my life had to be something I didn’t want to do. I’d heard story after story of people who believed they had been called not just outside their comfort zones but outside their deepest desires – into work they weren’t suited for, into relationships they wouldn’t have chosen, onto paths that were the opposite of how they’d imagine their lives to be.
Admittedly, life almost never works out the way we imagine it will. Pain, suffering and loss are part of the human experience, as are forks in the road and seasons of transition and obstacles to overcome. Whether we believe that God directs our paths or that we are the ultimate authorities on our own lives, we will face circumstances we wouldn’t have wished for.
But I do think I had things a bit confused when it came time to choose a path in college. I was happily plugging away toward a political theory and journalism degree when I had a niggling thought that maybe God wanted me to be a teacher instead — even though I didn’t want to be one, and no one who knew me well thought it was a good idea. To this day, I don’t know if it was truly the voice of God or if it was my own attempt to create a life that seemed godly. While I don’t regret the years I spent teaching, they did rock me to my core.
I tried to pretend that I loved being in the classroom, but the truth is, it wasn’t a good fit for me. I learned much more about who I am and what I need through these years of non-examples than I likely would have on a better-fitting path. Through long days spent interacting with little humans, I realized I was an introvert. Through teaching my students reading and writing, I realized how much I missed being immersed in literature. Through the open-ended, never-done nature of teaching, I realized I need more stability and structure.
One April, as I was considering whether to commit to my job for another year, I heard a radio show guest share the impetus for a big life change she had just made. A friend had asked her, “If you could do anything in the world, within reason, what would you do?” As I sat in my car outside school, I rested my head on the steering wheel and prayed, “Lord, who have you created me to be? What desires have I kept stuffed inside?”
That’s where the real adventure began, with a single word bouncing around my brain: books. I’d loved books and stories and words for as long as I could remember. Before I could read, I would scan the letters in my American Girl books as my mom read aloud to me, mumbling under my breath and repeating what she said, mesmerized by the cadence of the sentences and her voice. So if I could do anything, within reason, I would work with books.
I began to research what it would take to break into editing and found that it didn’t require grad school or a major move — my two big criteria. I signed up for an online class and quit my job not knowing what would happen next, taking a leap of faith that was so unlike me, as someone who thrives on predictability and plans.
Through the craziest connections, I landed a summer internship at a magazine, and through that season, I remembered something I’d long forgotten: I love to write. I stayed on as a writer for this magazine after I accepted a full-time copy editing position at a publishing house a few months later. At the encouragement of my husband, I launched a blog, and now I spend my early morning hours and lunch breaks composing essays for myself, for other publications, and ultimately, for the moms I so desperately want to encourage. I get to work with my personality instead of against it, using the gifts I had buried and that God unearthed again – placing them into my uncertain hands.
This exploration and celebration of the gifts given to me has been the single greatest adventure of my life. But I don’t think using your gifts has to look like some grand adventure, nor does it have to involve changing careers or communities. Take a class. Start a blog. Form a book club. Journal or paint or study the stock market or go bird watching. I will never stop being amazed by all the varied passions God has given people, and I will never stop being moved by people who are giving those gifts right back to the world.
I’m not saying that life is easy and everything falls into place when you find what you’re passionate about and run after it. I don’t believe life has any magic bullets: the right passion, community, pant size, job, spouse or child. I am saying that God, in his great love, has not only gifted you in a unique way but he has also given you permission to use those gifts.
The life God calls us to doesn’t have to be the path of most resistance to be the one of most beauty.
Brittany L. Bergman is a writer and editor living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and her daughter. She is passionate about living simply, savoring motherhood and finding the sacred in the everyday, and you can find her writing about these pursuits at BrittanyLBergman.com.