Jesus us so skillfully in exploring that idea of hearing a call.
The Second Treatise of A Course of Love (ACOL) begins with looking at treasure. Treasure is quickly linked to hearing one’s calling in life—that is, Jesus is telling us that following our own calling is very valuable and important for us. Following our calling is how we serve and express our own divine Self.
So of course we want to jump right into ”our calling,” even to the extent of making it up from our separated egos! Aye, there’s the rub. Jesus has to bring us a long way through A Course in Miracles (ACIM) and ACOL before we are even ready for such a discussion, you might say.
In the first place, the painful assertion of the separated self-identity seeming involved a lot of misguided use of calling. As a child we might indeed have come into this world “trailing clouds of glory”, as Wordsworth famously said, but then within the course of “normal” human development, we seemed to lose touch with that divine glory.
And so we made up a persona, a mask, a constructed identity that we presented to the world– and even to ourselves—as who we really are. Jesus acknowledges that we do in fact need a persona in our human lives here, but he wants that persona to be representation of our true Self as much as possible. He says in ACOL “drape your persona in a mantle of peace and joy.” In this way it can be a representation in form of the formless true Self within.
But that is an advanced achievement! We need not be discouraged to find that we first need to deconstruct some false callings before realizing our true divine callings. Jesus tells us reassuringly that we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t embraced some very limiting ideas about ourselves, but that there is a way out.
When and why does a child start feeling not good enough and start constructing a false self? Perhaps the individual stories vary a lot outwardly (this one born into privilege, that one born into abject poverty as a refugee, this one healthy, that one congenitally disabled, etc.), but the fact is we all made a false self—it came from feeling separated in the first place!
Thus the recommendation is to keep letting Jesus guide us in relating to our true calling.
If it weren’t for our special relationships we might jump right into true calling and never look back, I suppose. But because most of us are learning and growing so much in exploring relationship, we are encouraged to have to have faith in Jesus when he offers us the wonderful option of holy relationship gradually replacing special relationship through divine grace, if we but offer that little bit of willingness.
So for instance the ego in us is accustomed to using others for personal gain. It can be quite painful to begin to see (or let ourselves really feel) how frightened we are and how much we cling to our special loves or try to push away our special hate objects– how much we try to manipulate them to fill our emptiness or give us someone to blame for our dissatisfaction in life. This necessary process is laid out in the stages of the development of trust in the Manual for Teachers in ACIM.
Our work in the world is also very relevant to our calling. Freud said so wonderfully that there are two things incumbent on all of us to establish successfully in our lives: “love and work.” We need to learn how to give and receive love within appropriate human relationships, and we also and need to have our work in the world be a meaningful contribution we can feel good about.
Earl Purdy, a long-time teacher of ACIM and ACOL, once responded to a sincere question on job dissatisfaction from a participant in one of his wonderful U-Tube classes. The person was really being challenged at work, and Earl said, “You know, your actual present job could be absolutely the right place for you if you can learn to see God there! God teaching you, helping you, inspiring you through all your co-workers– and you doing the same for them.” This seemed very helpful to the questioner and also to the audience in general. Later, Earl led everyone in an affirmation from ACOL: “I give everyone in my life to love. I give everyone in my life to God. And I know that love and God are the same.”
In this sense, true calling in our work is more likely to be about seeing the spiritual opportunity already present there, rather than assuming that we are called to some other job or career that might be more gratifying to our ego.
Our sense of spirituality is also very much at issue here in terms of calling. Contemporary Western Zen Buddhist teacher Adya Shanti talks about “dreamland spirituality” as what most of us envision as we start out on the Path. Dreamland spirituality has us imagining a glorified ego state, as Jesus calls it in ACOL—a state the ego makes up as a personal Shangri-la, where all its needs are being met eternally without having to renounce the separation at all!
We’ve probably all experienced unseasoned teachers promising us some version of this ego heaven if we follow them. In addition, we’ve probably also caught ourselves trying to take that role with others. Maybe that’s a stage we have to go through—seeing through that spiritual specialness of dreamland spirituality.
I think we have to very self-honest and humble, then, in regard to answering that question “what is my calling?” Luckily, if we let Jesus guide our understanding here, we can have a lot of hope and faith in a bright future as our true calling is revealed to us from deep within our own Self.
These two quotes from ACOL sum up what we can joyfully anticipate in terms of our true calling:
“You who have so recently felt the peace of true acceptance are not asked to leave that peace to go in search of calling but are rather asked to listen from within that peace to what you feel called to do.” (Second Treatise, 4:12).
“All you must do is wholeheartedly recognize the treasure you have already chosen to bring into the world.” (Second Treatise, 3:2).