Ruth Haley Baron on the Call of Jesus to Share in His Mission

Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2008.

Ruth Haley Barton speaks helpfully of our calling from God in terms of "vocation."

Note however "vocation" as used in the quotes below doesn't relate so much to our means of making a living (i.e. who signs our cheque) as to the vision and work to which we are compelled as understood by our heart which has heard God speak.

This deeper reality is called by some our "avocation" (from the Latin avocareto "call away", from ab- + vocare "to call", from voc-, vox "voice") to which we are drawn, if economically possible, regardless of how we make our living. (Many today think of "avocation" simply as "hobby" but this was not its original meaning. I understand the "voice" from which "avocation" flows, to be God's voice.)

In her chapter on "Calling" Barton expresses something I've felt much of my life but not sensed others always understanding very well...

"Vocation at its deepest level is, 'This is something I can't not do, for reasons I am unable to explain to anyone else and don't fully understand myself but are compelling nonetheless." (p. 76)

"Vocation does not come from a voice 'out there' calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice 'in here' calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God." (p. 77)

"Some people seem to make it through this life without ever having to wrestle with the fatal question. They seem to move through life with ease - making a living, enjoying the fruit of their labour, taking what seems to be an easy or at least a rather clearly marked path to security and success - while others seem to be called to make commitments that require us to do strange things and orient our lives towards realities others do not even see.... The true leader is one who has heard the fatal question. This is the person who seen a vision of what could be, and who continues to take steps in that direction against all odds." (p. 83-84)