Under postmodern conditions, it is hard for young people to believe that God has a calling for their lives. The hard part is not that God has a calling, but rather that God has a calling -- just one -- for your whole life.
This reflection is the fruit of a conference on "Re-Forming Ministry." We have been charged by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to think about how to support pastors in congregations today. We have spent some time on thinking about the meaning of God's call, and whether we need to rethink the church's traditional conception under changed conditions today.
I am mostly skeptical of any postmodernism, but I have come to believe that we have begun to enter a condition of postmodernity. One consequence of this change for the church is that the notion of one fixed calling for life is hard to believe, and worth reconsidering. The Reformed notion of a calling for each believer still shows its roots in the medieval Catholic notion of a calling for priests, monks, and nuns to a special ontological status. Yet the rest of Reformed practice treats our calling not so much as a change in our essence as it is a particular task that God has commissioned us to do.
It is a short step from thinking about the call as a commission, to think about a call as one commission, which may be followed by other, different commissions.
The advantage of thinking about a call as a commission is that it allows for changing from one big job to another without seeing that change as a failure. Many seminarians have turned to ministry as a second career. One of the intriguing ideas to come from this meeting for me is to think that ministry might be a first career, which could legitimately be followed by a second calling to a second career. And so on.
I am still chewing on this idea. Your comments are most welcome.