There's a stereotype that every family has at least one weirdo. At least one person who followed a different path than the rest of the group.
I am my family's black sheep.
Now, I love my family. They're the best. My parents are my best friends, and I adore my brothers with a love I don't think anyone can fully understand unless they're a big sister themselves. This group of humans has been nothing but supportive of me. They love me and believe in me and believe in the call of God on my life.
But I chose a vocational path very different than the ones these four other humans chose.
I like to joke that I come from a family of number crunchers. My dad, while essentially a farmer, has worked in economics for over thirty years. My mom is an accountant and CPA. My middle brother, Luke, who will be 21 in December, is getting his degree in Agricultural Economics (in which our dad also has two degrees). Cooper, the baby, just started his degree in Finance.
And I -- I, the oldest, the one smack-dab in the middle of this tight-knit family -- I decided I wanted to go to music school and sing opera.
For those familiar with the Enneagram personality typing system (with which I am borderline-obsessed): I am a Type One, the Perfectionist. In times of unhealth, a Type One can tend toward personality traits of the Type Four, the Romantic or the Individualist. A hallmark of the Type Four is that they have a deep-seated sense that they are different than other people, that they lack a fundamental thing that everyone else has. They feel deficient in some way. At the same time, though, they are proud that they are different from other people. They like being individual; they like being special. Sometimes they feel that, in addition to lacking something, they also possess something that no one else has.
They feel different. They feel both special and lacking, chosen and forgotten.
And if there's anything I learned this summer, in what I am going to unofficially call the Summer of Sadness, it is this: boy howdy, do I EVER go to Four in unhealth.
Oddly, I think our family vacation was my lowest point! On the one hand, I had such a good time on vacation, and would give a lot of things to go back and hang out with my family right now. I laughed so much, as I always do with them -- and I needed to laugh. Plus, there's something magical and alchemical about being with your family. Something just fits and clicks.
On the other hand, I was still in the middle of my dark night of the soul. I wanted to pursue music, but I felt that my parents would not approve, would not allow it (even though I'm a 23-year-old woman and I can do what I want, and Mom and Dad told me as much!). I felt that I would encounter substantial resistance, and whether or not that were true, I built it up in my mind so much that I basically created the resistance for myself. I spent a lot of time on vacation -- on vacation, you guys -- feeling sorry for myself, shrouded by this sadness that I could not shake off. I was quiet, a little morose. Sometimes I could wriggle out of it, but more often than not I was just quiet and sad and all I wanted to do was stay home and sleep.
I think we call this depression.
This was my Four-ness in full effect. I felt like I was different from the rest of my family, that I had received the gift of being an Artist with a capital A that they did not have, nor could they ever understand it. I am deeply aware of how arrogant this sounds. I can only offset it by saying that I did not see this as an asset. I saw it as a grief, because I was lacking something essential for normal human function. I felt irrevocably different, and it was not a pleasant feeling.
(Mom, if you're reading this, I'm so sorry I behaved this way.)
You don't have to be an artist to feel different from those around you. To feel that your calling has made you different in ways that you both love and dread.
It's normal to look at what you feel God has called you do and go, "... Oh, no."
I cannot think of a single person in the Bible, a single character whom we all love and emulate, who was called into sameness with those around them. And this is not to say that if you ARE called into something similar to your family or friends, that you are any less!
I am writing to the ones who are afraid of calling because it makes them feel that they stick out like a sore thumb.
I am writing to the ones who are afraid of pursuing what God has called them into because they are afraid it makes them different-in-a-negative-way.
My father was called by God to work with the land. That is the family business: he grew up on a farm. He may not have been called into something that made him feel like the black sheep (and Dad is so level-headed I honestly doubt that stuff like that ever occurs to him, God bless him).
But sometimes -- and this is everyone -- sometimes calling makes us uncomfortable.
Sometimes it frightens us.
Sometimes God speaks into our lives and we go, "... Oh, come on!! Really?!"
We are filled with joy and also with dread because what on earth are we going to do?
We have been called. The pull on our souls is too much to bear. But it seems too hard.
Really, that's what this post is about. Not about family or parents or any of the weird things you struggle with when you come into your own as a human being. It's not about my family being awful (because they aren't; they're the absolute best).
This post is about what happens when your calling fills you with ecstasy and also with despair because it feels too hard. Like there will be too much resistance. It feels like Jericho: just when you've started into your Promised Land, you come up against a wall of something, and that wall is the wall of being the black sheep.
Sometimes being different feels like more than we can bear.
Because I promise you, party people: your calling is going to make you feel different. Whether you're an opera singer in a family of finance people or you're a farmer in a family of other farmers. Whether you picked something stereotypically "practical" or not, though I'm beginning to believe that the stigma of practicality is a load of BS.
Your calling is going to make your feel different sometimes. And the difference is going to feel insurmountable. It's going to feel like too much to bear.
Sometimes it's being a person of faith in a culture antagonistic to the Gospel. Sometimes your coworkers are going to be jerks. No matter what it is, the thing you are called to do -- it's going to make you feel the way a Four does, like you are both endowed with a gift and cursed with a burden.
To which I say: that doesn't matter.
Pursue it anyway.
God has called you into it. You don't think He's going to be at your right hand all the time? You don't think He will conquer resistance, or at least bring you through it? That's what the Psalms are about, party people.
He will bring down the walls of Jericho, even (especially) if they are only in your mind -- looking at you, Past Sara.
If we are frightened of calling because we feel that it makes us stick out like a sore thumb, I am here to tell you that that is not a reason.
We want to connect. We are afraid of being different because we think if we are different no one will love us.
It isn't true.
I've said this many times before, and it's taken a hiatus in my life, but the saying is beginning to creep back in with a small smile upon its face:
God has never not come through for you.
If there is actual resistance, don't you think He'll do what He has always done and make a way for you?
And if the resistance is only in your head -- don't you think He'll do what He has always done and make a way for you?
Also, y'all, I'm here to say that Jesus has called us to be different. To be lights, cities set on hills, salt -- all that jazz.
Believers, if you feel that your calling makes you different, it probably does, and we are to lean into it with all we've got. Because our calling is to share the Gospel, and it's that difference that is going to save the world.
Your vocational path makes you feel different?
Maybe that's a sign that it's right.