Saint Augustine’s wisdom on discerning your calling
Written by Mike Gordon
Did you ever play the game M.A.S.H. during recess in elementary school? Mansion, apartment, shack, or house. The game would promise without fail where you’ll live, who you’ll marry, what kind of car you’ll drive, and what you’ll do as a career.
It’s interesting that even from a young age, many of us begin asking these big life questions. Apart from M.A.S.H., the big question I can remember being asked was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A veterinarian? A firefighter? At one point, I wanted to be a dog which clearly doesn’t make any sense.
As we grow older, this question might gain a spiritual twist. We begin to ask “Where is God calling me?” in regard to our careers.
When I talk to young people about these questions, it almost feels like a game of M.A.S.H. They feel they are making random guesses about what to study, or if they should study at all, in order to achieve the career God has for them. Unfortunately, this often leads to stress and anxiety because they are afraid to make the wrong career choice.
But when you look in the Bible, it doesn’t often, if at all, connect God’s calling with a career. In fact, many people didn’t even have a choice about what profession or education they pursued in those days. Most people went on to do whatever their family trade was.
However, the main thing God’s followers in the Old and New Testaments were called to do was to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They believed if they lived this out in every area of their lives, then they were in the centre of God’s calling and will.
Saint Augustine once put it this way, “Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”
Love God and do whatever you please. What a beautiful, freeing invitation.
Our love of God roots us in our relationship to Him. From there, we’re released from agonizing decisions about this or that school or job. We have been given the autonomy to make these choices because we have free will. And our wills connect to His will when we walk in obedience.
What do Augustine’s words mean for us today?
Love God. If you grew up in Sunday school, you were taught this from a very young age. You would quote scriptures about loving God, you would sing songs about your love for God, and you would make crafts expressing how much you loved God. Over time, this can become a little cliché. We just say we love Him over and over—a Christian reflex.
This way of expressing our love for God isn’t exactly what Augustine was talking about. Loving God even goes beyond having a relationship with Him. Jesus reminds His followers that if they love Him, they will keep His commandments.
Exodus also instructs us to keep God’s commands and to obey Him fully; this was crucial to being in the centre of His will. The Israelites were trying to figure out what their lives looked like moving forward with God. This meant obedience to the moral laws, practices, and rituals God gave them. The Lord then goes on and says if they did this, they would be for Him a kingdom of priests.
In other words, if you obey Him fully according to the Bible, then the way you live, act, and talk will reflect God in this world. This is God’s calling for all of us. If you love God by keeping His commands, then whether you go on to study business or nursing, or whether you go to McGill University or do an apprenticeship in Edmonton—He will be reflected and glorified where you are.
“…And do what you please,” the quote continues. Before I went to seminary, I studied business because that’s where the jobs and money were. It was almost like this was the best career option to land on in M.A.S.H, so I pursued this direction.
As I worked on my education, deep down I knew this wasn’t what I had a passion for. Despite making sense at the time, having a desk job in the business world definitely wasn’t doing what I pleased.
In hindsight, I did love God and kept His commands when I studied business, so I do believe if I continued down that road, I still would have been in God’s will. However, during my years studying business I started to take note of what I was passionate about. This led me down a completely different career path and ultimately into ministry, which I really like.
We can sometimes feel guilty pursuing what we enjoy. We feel this guilt for a variety of reasons, such as that it might not lead to the best job, or the highest paying income. I don’t think we should feel guilty going after a career that lines up with what we like to do.
We need to understand God has put passions and desires within us and has wired everyone in a unique way. Some people are passionate about technology, and others are more passionate about working with people. Whatever it is, He has put it in you and you can enjoy it. Don’t deny it, because it does line up with His calling on your life.
If you’re able to pursue these desires and continue to love God as you walk in obedience, you will also enjoy being in the centre of His will. And, you’ll find joy in your work, which is also very important when it comes to your 30- to 40-year career.
As you navigate what life looks like moving forward with God, know it doesn’t have to be a game of just trying to guess where God is calling you. Truly loving God and then doing what you please seems could lead you exactly where He wants you to be.