In my previous blog post, the third in this series on vocation, I wrote about our Primary calling, the calling to God Himself. I also talked about our secondary callings, our earthly relationships, responsibilities, and jobs. In this post, I’ll be discussing further how God unifies our diverse callings. If you haven’t read the previous blog posts in this series, you may want to read those first.
While the primary call to relationship with God through Christ is something all believers hold in common, secondary callings vary from person to person. They are hand-picked by God for me to refine me, to build his kingdom, to care for others, and to glorify himself. Diversity in secondary callings is necessary for the health of the Body of Christ and the flourishing of culture.
We see God calling his people to specific secondary pursuits throughout the Bible. In Exodus 31:1-5, God calls Bezalel to be an artist for the specific task of designing for the temple: “The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” (ESV)
In Mark 6:7 Jesus calls twelve men to be his disciples: “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” (ESV)
In the famous litany in Hebrews of heros of faith, we read, “Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8, ESV) Abraham obeyed God’s call to pick up and journey with his family without even knowing where God would take him.
Paul instructs the Corinthians in I Corinthians 7:17, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” (ESV)
Weaving Primary and Secondary Callings
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power. II Thessalonians 1:11 (ESV)
Woven materials have two sets of threads or yarns that run perpendicular to each other. If you can imagine buying a large bolt of fabric and completely unrolling it on a soccer field, the very long threads that run from cut end to cut end are the warp threads. The weft (sometimes called woof) threads run the width of the fabric (common widths for fabric are 45 or 60 inches). Though types of looms vary widely, the concept remains the same in weaving: the warp threads are held in tension on the loom while the weft threads are passed over and under the warp threads repeatedly to create cloth.
God’s primary call on my life—the call to Himself—Is the warp of my life. It is a stable and indispensable basis for my secondary callings, which vary at times, but must always hang on God’s primary call. Without the warp of God’s primary call, the weft-like secondary callings have no basis, no organization, no meaning. They have no hope of integration or strength. With the warp of God’s primary call firmly in place, God can weave a variety of weft-like secondary callings into my life to create a fabric of beauty and pattern that will attest to His wisdom and care. They will be unified, strengthened, and kept in order by the primary calling “warp” of my life.
To attempt to detach our secondary callings from God’s primary call to Himself is as ludicrous as trying to weave cloth on a loom without warp threads. The weft threads would have no purpose without a warp. Without a warp, there is no cloth. After speaking to some of my painting students about this analogy for our callings, one of them said, “When you put it like that, it makes a lot of sense. I can just picture a pile of limp weft threads on the ground in a tangle.”
In my next post in this series, I’ll be discussing the encouragement to “do what you love” and our temptation to think that we call ourselves or to think that our fates are in the hands of other humans.
Michelle Berg Radford is an artist and educator living in Greenville, SC. She holds an M.F.A. in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She began her studio practice as a landscape painter, but has recently been exploring the meaning behind motherhood and domestic spaces through her mixed media assemblages and collages. Michelle teaches college painting, fiber arts, and theory courses. Michelle lives with her husband, Paul, and three young children and is passionate about weaving together art and daily life.
Visit her website at www.michellebergradford.com.