In the Gospels, Jesus’ sense of vocation—his conviction about what he was called to do—emerged from a clear sense of who he was.
Before Jesus began his public ministry he may have been a follower of John the Baptist. He was baptized by John in the desert. In the context of his baptismal experience Jesus was given a vision, a revelation of his true self. The Gospels employ symbolical language to describe Jesus’ spiritual encounter: The heavens opened, the Spirit descended in the appearance of a dove, and the Divine Voice pronounced, “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Immediately after this experience Jesus faced Satan in the desert, that is, Jesus faced the temptations of his calling (temptations he would encounter throughout his ministry). And then, in the power of the Spirit, Jesus began proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, welcoming all manner of sinners into his fellowship and manifesting healing power.
Jesus becomes the Messianic agent of God’s new world after he hears the still, small Voice of the Spirit affirming him as God’s Son. Jesus provides for us a pattern for coming to realize our true vocation.
Dennis Lynn is an author and spiritual retreat leader. Having been brought up in a very strict religious environment, his primary goal in life as an adolescent was to avoid hell. He tried to avoid the long list of sins that he had been taught would lead to his eternal banishment. He grew up hating himself and not liking anyone else much either.
A major change took place in his life when he joined the Jesuits. His novice master had instructed him to make a general confession of his sins. He wrote twelve pages of all the things he didn’t like about himself. At his confession, Dennis started with page one and talked non-stop for thirty minutes.
At the end of his confession his novice master said nothing. Instead, he came over and gave him a big hug. It was then that the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and he heard the Voice of God affirming him that he was God’s son, that God loved him no matter what.
Dennis’ experience of being loved unconditionally as God’s child led to his conviction about his true vocation. From then on Dennis felt he could be a brother to all people, that he could love a lot because he had been forgiven a lot—at least twelve pages worth.
I have often contended that doubts and questions are essential and necessary for our spiritual growth. My doubts and questions certainly spurred me to dig deeper and to come to a deeper faith and more compassionate life.
However, there is one truth that I hope I never doubt: the truth that God loves us as we are. We belong to God and are God’s daughters and sons, no matter how many faults and failures mark our path, no matter how destructive our addictions and problems.
Regardless of how much we achieve, how many accolades or honors or awards we earn, God will not love us any more than God loves us right now. And no matter how badly we mess up or how many sins characterize our lives, God will not love us any less than God loves us right now.
As we claim our identity as God’s beloved children, our vocation (calling) begins to take shape. Knowing who we are, we are awakened to a clearer sense of what we are to be about.