Book Review: Courage and Calling, by Gordon T. Smith

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This is an impressive volume that addresses an important topic. The subject of Calling is one that interests me and, I believe, so many others. And I find this book to be a helpful guide. The author is a Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Canada, provides a scriptural and reasoned look at this important but complicated matter.

He begins by identifying the three types of calling:

  • Everyone has a calling to repent of sin and embrace Jesus as Saviour
  • There is a particular assignment to a specific role in the world. This is one’s ‘defining purpose or mission, a reason for being’.
  • We also have  a responsibility to meet the demands and tasks that arise daily in the several spheres of our lives, whether as parents, colleagues, neighbours, etc.

The focus of the book is on the second type of calling which is commonly designated by the term Vocation. Our vocation is built on our calling as christians. For in our work, as well as in all other aspects of our life, we serve Jesus who is now our Lord and master (1 Cor.10:31). It is a specific way of service in the world, given the skills and gifts we have been endowed with. However, it takes more than skills and talents to identify one’s calling. Other factors come into play such as:

  • Personality and temperament
  • Identifying what gives one the greatest joy
  • Identifying what one feels is the world’s greatest need.

It thus requires that we are brutally honest with our own hearts. We must be disciplined enough to reject a line of activity that is out of harmony with who we truly are, and be courageous enough to patiently pursue what we see to be God’s design for us. The result of this is freedom:

 Freedom from ambition, freedom from the pressures and expectations of others, freedom to be who we   are before God. It is a freedom to embrace the call of God upon our lives with joy and hope (p.76).

Our sense of what we are called to be and do evolves as we move through the various stages or chapters  of our life. The individual makes her first move from adolescence into adulthood and at this stage learns to be truly independent of her parents in her understanding of her life purpose. She learns to discover herself and and identify the role she has been designed to play. In moving into midlife, she becomes more aware of her limitations as well as her abilities. As her understanding of life matures, so also will her approach to her vocation. Finally, there is a transition to the final years of life – the senior years. In this phase, her task is to increasingly let go of the roles, titles, and offices that are perceived to be so essential to living out vocation, and to continually bless and offer wisdom to the coming generation. This does not change her vocation, but only modifies how it is lived out. These are the different phases through which one must pass in the pursuit of one’s calling. Nevertheless, through all these stages, our vocations are practised as unto the Lord with a consistent focus on Excellence, Truth, Diligence, and Generosity.

He looks at four areas of calling (Business, Art, Education, and Religious leadership) and shows how we can demonstrate vocational integrity in each. Throughout our vocational journeys, we must remain humble learners. We must be willing to change and ready to adjust to the situations around us.

I find him wordy in some discussions,  and there is an abundance of very long sentences which can make reading challenging in some places. However, the treasure to be mined from its pages more than compensates for the effort. It is a remarkable effort, full of wisdom and insight, and is destined to be a constant guide to resort to time and again.

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