“I used to think I needed an invitation to get into most places, but now I know I’m already invited.” ~ Bob Goff

I’m not a driven, goal-oriented person by nature. I can be really efficient, feeling the satisfying scratch of pen against paper as I tick items off my to-do list to manage the needs of my family and counseling practice. Return shoes. Put away laundry. Schedule clients for next week. Update budget. The cover of my to-do list notebook says, “Say Yes to New Adventures” in bright, shiny gold lettering, and yet it’s filled with some of the most boring, non-adventurous stuff imaginable.

Deep down, I know these things aren’t my calling – that there’s a difference between living a productive life and a purposeful one. I’ve gotten really good at doing what I have to do in order for my family and work to function while the deep longings in my heart get pushed to the margins and eventually, off the page altogether. 

Let me pause to acknowledge that the word calling can carry a lot of weight. The task of finding it and the process of living it can sometimes feel more like a burden than a release valve. I think our calling is found in discovering where we are uniquely gifted and positioned to reveal God’s character and bring about healing, hope, and restoration in our lives and relationships. What makes your heart race? What aspects of God’s kingdom do you long to see more of in this world? What injustices do you ache to be made right? Your calling is most often embedded in those very places where your heart is naturally drawn toward and broken by.

My heart beats to help others find healing and heart knowledge of God’s grace through counseling and writing. I’ve been a professional counselor for almost a decade, but stepping out into writing is new territory for me. The little I’ve done makes me want more, but making space for it is hard. I’ll gain a little momentum, but it never seems to last. It feels like I’m consistently running up against this barrier, and the life I’ve dreamed of seems to exist on the other side.

I tend to approach this problem with two strategies. The first is structure. I get excited, set a bunch of goals, make lists, and formulate plans. Before I know it, I lose that spark and begin to watch my self-imposed deadlines pass me by. This eventually devolves into strategy two, which I call the “it’s just a season” approach. It’s really less of a strategy and more of a decision to shelve my dreams and come back to them later when I’m past this space of life with small kids. Both paths leave me motionless.

I am far from perfect. I find myself stagnant, stuck, and unproductive far more often than I’d like. I’m beginning to own the truth that staying emotionally and spiritually awake will be a lifelong battle for me. Yet, I have walked the path of calling paralysis long enough to see steady, slow movement. Along the way, I’ve noticed that the same lessons surface over and over again. Like an anti-lullaby, they sing to me to stay awake, to stay connected, and to keep pressing into the abundant life Jesus promises us.

Lesson 1: Lean into Discomfort
One of the most important things I’ve learned in this journey is that I have a strong pull to disengage from difficult emotions.

Staying connected to our calling will require the ability to move through difficult and uncomfortable emotions. Whenever I try to write again after a particularly dry spell, it’s not long before the waves of shame begin to crash, disorienting me like vertigo. I think of the time I’ve lost, the things I could have achieved by now, and the distance that still remains between myself and my dreams – and it hurts. 

And then there’s the fear. Fear that deep down, I don’t belong in the spaces my soul longs to live in. I’m afraid that the world is already full enough of words as it is, and that I don’t have anything to contribute. It’s the kind of fear that whispers to us that we need to step back, shrink down, and not use our gifts. 

Here, I have learned two critical truths. Numbing is not rest. Checking out is not self-care.

Facing down fear and shame is no joke, but we need to allow ourselves to feel them in order to move through them.

Lesson 2: Root Yourself in Grace
It is easy to become so fixated on the shame of our past and the fear of the future that we miss the new opportunities God is calling us to pursue here and now. While it seems like the basic Sunday school answer, I am more convinced than ever before that Jesus is the answer to the parts of ourselves and our lives that are difficult and painful to face. It is in Him that we can move through our fear and shame instead of shutting down and allowing these feelings to keep us from the lives we were made for.

Jesus came to heal our shame, reminding us that we are just as worthy of love on our worst day as we are on our best. The metric for our acceptance is based solely in what He has done for us. Jesus meets us in our fear by reminding us that he has lived it. We serve a God who endured the alienation of the cross so that we would be forever welcomed. Even when we feel like there’s nowhere we fit, we belong to Him.

Lesson 3: Take the Next Step
When our worthiness and belonging are defined by Jesus, it empowers us to boldly step out into the lives we were created for. And yet, I’m learning that bold doesn’t necessarily mean big. We can often move farther when our steps are smaller. 

Recently, I’ve taken a cue from my five-year-old, who loves setting timers. I set a timer for 15 minutes, open my computer, and write. We could judge ourselves for not doing more, or we could watch those snapshots come together to form a life that reflects the unique pieces of Jesus that have been hardwired into each of our hearts.

I am convinced that Jesus longs for us to know that our calling needs no invitation – because we’re already invited. Our successes won’t help us earn more of his acceptance and our failures don’t disqualify us from his love.

My prayer is that we would belong so fully to Jesus that we unleash unprecedented redemption, compassion, healing, and restoration in our world. Even 15 minutes at a time.

Melissa Brownback

Melissa is a pastor's wife, mom, and professional counselor who loves listening to and telling stories that reveal the grace and redemptive work of God in the darkest and most unexpected places. She loves being outdoors and exploring her new community in Southern California where she lives with her husband and two little boys.

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