Characterizing a Call
While there is no established pattern for the manner through which an individual arrives at a decision to take a certain direction in life, in retrospect one sees how the puzzle pieces of circumstances fell into place. Often in the realm of public humanitarian service the attraction is characterized as a “calling” through a long-held dream or an episodic vision. A model adult who exemplifies the perceived ideal in a profession or vocation may influence a career choice; or an experience in the context of extreme human need may elicit a strong response in one’s inner being to intervene with skills and knowledge to improve the same or similar witnessed circumstances.
Using Biblical examples which changed nations and even the world, Saul of Tarsus comes to mind. He knew he was doing God’s bidding in capturing, imprisoning, and witnessing for conviction many newly converted Christian Jews who were later executed. Then, that blinding Presence which brought him around to the reality that, in Christ’s just kingdom, persecution is lawlessness, interrupted his mission. As a result of mentoring by a God-sent humble man and personal soul-searching and prayer, he became a catalyst of Christian hope whose teachings would revolutionize societies of the future. (Acts, Ch. 9)
Moses of Biblical Old Testament times—1500s BC in fact—was called by God for a purpose: to rescue His chosen people out of Egyptian bondage to a land of promise. So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4) While the “call” was dramatic—an unearthly voice from an uncanny burning desert scrub—the conversation was engaging, to say the least. Moses had become so humbled after 40 years in an agricultural occupation that he begged off from God’s assignment. Though he had been taught by a Godly Jewish biological mother about his destiny to be a leader of his enslaved people, he was raised in Pharaoh’s house to be an educated, princely government leader. You may read about the circumstances which brought him to the desert and 40 years later to the bush in Exodus chapters 1-4.
There are many incidences of dramatic alterations in public and private lives in the Bible; it is an historical account of civilization where God reveals His power and purposes to mankind through traceable events and influences. Paul, the previously notorious Saul of Tarsus, instructs us that it is the Holy Spirit of God who hovers over us and moves our conscience to listen to God’s inaudible invitation to a life change (Romans 8:9-14; I Corinthians 2:9-13; I Corinthians 3:16). He also teaches that the Holy Spirit orchestrates/coordinates the development and use of normal attributes (not paranormal abilities) or “gifts” in us “for the common good” of society (I Corinthians 12:1-11). One of those is discernment; the use of this gift reveals to our “heart” what the logic of the thinking mind directs. We then understand the “call.”
(Further spiritual insight on the topic)
More Contemporary Example
A primary, more contemporary, example is the life of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing. Most nurses have learned that she was born into money and influence in England, that she grew to be an attractive and talented woman who early showed a dislike for trivial activities and conversation . . . and that she had a penchant to care for vulnerable creatures, both children and animals. She believed she was called and the details are intriguing.
She first recognized a verbal invitation when she was 17 years old, but only sensed that God had a special plan for her. She received no details. Seven years of travel, social activities, meeting new and influential people went by. Because her parents abhorred her interest in nursing people who were sick, and especially even speaking of working in a hospital (the conditions of those institutions were disgraceful and immoral in the early and mid-1800s), she secretly wished to get nursing training, but was thwarted in several ways.
Seven years after the first “call” she was impressed again, but without instructions; however, a few years earlier she had learned of Kaiserwerth Institute in Berlin, Germany, where Protestant deaconesses were trained in nursing, and she had even spent a couple weeks there while traveling with friends. Now, at the age of 30, she extricated herself from her controlling parents and traveled to Kaiserwerth in 1833 to train, passing the examination with flying colors as the most promising student. This was her second call.
Florence possessed unusual skill for recordkeeping, collecting data, and innovating change. In 1837, back in England, she studied hospital reports and “Blue Books”, the early public health publications. She indexed and tabulated facts on hospitals in Paris and Berlin, and from this research she gained a vast knowledge of sanitary conditions, becoming the first expert on this topic in Europe. As the years progressed and she became more admired and successful in reforms in care for the vulnerable sick, while experiencing criticism and reprisals from her parents and sister, even to the point of withdrawing financial support from her for awhile. By 1854, during a cholera pandemic, England entered the Crimean War over control of trade routes through Eastern Europe. The government support for troop transport and medical care was grossly inadequate and soldiers who were wounded and dying suffered in deplorable conditions. A reporter for the first time in British history covered troop maneuvers, informing Britons at home of deplorable conditions, fostering a public outcry. Sidney Herbert, an influential friend Florence had formed a relationship with years before who was now Secretary of War, called upon her to take a group of nurses to administer health care in the Crimea. She was one step ahead of him and was already preparing to do so. This was the third, and concrete, “call” for which her life had been prepared. Her mission from this point on focused on inhumane conditions of troops in the military and sanitary practices in hospitals; a mission that she pursued so intensely her health was sacrificed. Her “calling” and dedication to a cause sparked the birth of the evidence-based profession we know today as nursing (From a biography by Cecil Woodham Smith, 1951).
Another excellent biographical source is Barbara Montgomery Dossey’s book “Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer” (1999).
I refer you to the page A Historical Perspective.
Contribute your ideas, opinions, stories, examples in the comment box below.
Then, please continue to the Interaction Page for this module.