I had an interesting conversation with my spiritual director a while back. He is a word nerd, like me, and I had used the word “called” when referring to a vocation I am discerning. He stopped me in my tracks and said, “Called? Like Augustine who was literally dragged out of his home by the people who called him to be their bishop? Who called you?”
I was silent.
He went on. “I think the word you are looking for is “drawn.” You feel drawn to a certain path of life, not called.”
He was right. I hadn’t received a “call” from anyone, not even God, at least I thought I hadn’t.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. Many people have difficulty understanding the (very subtle) difference between feeling drawn and being called to do God’s work.
When you are drawn, God designs your walk of life to include experiences with someone who needs your talents. Take for example a dating couple. By attraction and sentiment, God has placed one in the pathway of the other to converse, to relate, to acquire a highly intimate relationship in which one soul is drawn to the other through their bonds of love.
As a result, they are then call one another to make their love a permanent ministry. When they accept this call, they are united by the One who created them to be one flesh in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
To be drawn is an ascent of the will to participate more fully in an act so that your desires might be quenched at its completion. This initial draw sparks from personal interest and is a catalyst toward discerning its place in your story of salvation. It becomes a call when, after having proven yourself to be dedicated to what you were first drawn to, someone (or someones) takes notice and calls on you to do more.
A man and a woman in a dating relationship call one another to become more as a united one in marriage.
A young man spends years studying and practicing his pastoral care while in seminary (drawn) until the Bishop (or the master of a religious order) calls him to become a priest.
A nursing student takes on hours of extra floor work at the hospital on top of her heavy course load (drawn) and is later called by her advisor and hospital director to accept her degree.
This is how discernment works. We are drawn to holiness and we pursue it in our own unique ways. In our pursuit, God draws to us through our inner silence, constant contemplation, and ongoing development to become more than we think ourselves capable of. It will take years, perhaps even a lifetime to hear his voice, but he will, indeed, make his voice known through those he has placed in power over us. Those who pursue him with a humble soul recognize his voice in the approval of those offering them work in God’s vineyard and they respond to this offer with sincerity of heart.
Very few people in this day in age are actually called by God to do his work without regard to having been drawn to him first.
St. Paul was called when he was knocked off of his horse on the way to Damascus.
Moses was called when he met God at the burning bush.
Peter was called when Jesus told him to leave his fishing boats and follow him.
You are probably not called to do what you think you are being called to do. You are likely drawn to follow a pathway that will lead toward doing this work. In time, those who notice your dedication to excellence in journeying that pathway will call you to do more.
We are drawn before we are called.