In the last several months, with the help of a trusted friend and mentor, I’ve been sifting through some big heart issues. When I showed up at TNL a couple weeks ago, I’d already spent a lot of the afternoon with God, repenting for some of those heart issues. So as Jared unfolded his talk from Consuming to Cultivating, I knew right away what I was consuming and what had been consuming me and it wasn’t a tangible material thing.

It is my people pleasing tendencies. But it is deeper than just people pleasing. It is my overvaluing of man’s praise and approval and undervaluing God’s. It is letting my worth be defined by anyone other than God.

I first sought a mentor to be led by because I desire to live a life of joy and freedom, but don’t always feel like I am actually living that life. In this journey of being led, my eyes have been opened to how I do believe God’s truths about my worth with my head, but I don’t truly believe them with my heart. If I did, I wouldn’t be so crushed when I don’t meet other people’s expectations or when someone is upset with me. This constant striving for approval and worth has been leading to a type of death. Death that kills my joy. Death that blinds me to who God made me to be and the worth I have simply by being His child.

I regularly have conversations with people about the concept of ‘calling’; what God intends for their life. This article is by a good friend, Andy Crouch, and says with clarity and conviction what I would hope every person I have that conversation with to better understand. Jared Mackey

If you’re a Christian, you don’t have “a calling.” You have three. Two of the three are fundamental and universal—that is, they aren’t optional and they aren’t individual, but they are by far the most important callings in your life. The good news (and hard news, actually) is they each come with a community who can help you fulfill them—in fact, without that community you won’t fulfill them at all.

We are here to reflect the Creator into the creation, and to reflect the creation’s praise and lament back to the Creator. To bear the image is to exercise dominion, caring for and cultivating the good world and making it very good through our creative attention. Most human work falls under this heading, which is why Christians work gladly alongside neighbors who don’t share our faith, and also why almost all human work is perfectly appropriate for Christians. It requires no more justification than this: bearing the image by working fruitfully in the good world is what we were always meant to do.

For the great majority of human beings, this calling is fulfilled primarily in the first and most fundamental human community: the family. The image bearers are called to be fruitful and multiply. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” From that union come every one of us image bearers, always already immersed in a human community, whose faces we sought as soon as we were born. This is not the “nuclear family” of the late industrial West, but the extended family that has known us since our birth and will, if we are blessed, surround and provide for us at our death. Whether or not we go on to form new families of our own, our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.

I first attended Denver Seminary because I didn’t hear anything from God.

I was transitioning from work in cardiovascular research to collegiate ministry. Three years later, I realized my need for deeper theological foundations and began researching seminaries. I narrowed my choices to Denver Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School—both great schools, and what I felt was a coin-flip decision.

For weeks I’d asked God to lead me to one seminary or the other. I sought friends and family to pray and discern God’s lead with me. Facing an enrollment deadline, I decided to seek God’s voice on this critical decision by fasting. Three days later, I had heard nothing and was terribly hungry—not the discernment process I’d hoped for. Having no sense of God’s specific leading, I decided on Denver Seminary for two reasons: my best friend lived here, and I wanted to snowboard. Those were the tiebreakers, and neither seemed very spiritual to me.

Most of us have asked similar life questions, wanting God to speak into relationship, occupation, economic, or ministry decisions. But for some, the earnest desire to know God’s pleasure is met with confusion. Are they just not listening, or is God speaking at all?

Dallas Willard suggests that there are three common, though mistaken, interpretations of how God speaks to us. The message-a-minute view assumes that God will always tell you what to do if you are listening or willing to ask. The it’s-all-in-the-Bible view is well intended but ignores “the need for personal divine instruction within the principles of the Bible yet beyond the details of what it explicitly says.” The whatever- comes view assumes a determinism of God that eliminates relational discernment with Him because everything that happens is believed to be the guidance of God.

Assuming the Living God does speak to His people today, then how does He do so? And how should His people posture themselves as listeners?