Book Report: Courage and Calling

Gordon T. Smith encourages us to “embrace our God-given potential” in his book Courage and Calling. He begins by identifying the three types of callings: the call to be a Christian, the specific vocational call for each individual, and the call of day-to-day demands. Even though this reading is Christian specific, I believe that a non-believer can also draw insightful information to enhance their lifestyle. For believers like myself, we find our vocation within our calling. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

There were three ideas that stuck with me after completing the reading: chapters in our lives, turning from the fear that so easily entangles us, and the capacity for continuous learning.

Smith discusses the different chapters of our lives by dividing them into transitioning periods: adolescence to early adulthood, early to mid-adulthood, and mid-adulthood to senior years. At each stage we have different duties that come along with our vocational callings. The stage that I am currently in is the transition from adolescence to early adulthood. This is when we learn to take on more responsibilities and truly become adults. Which Smith addresses as “some kind of separation from parents. This separation is a symbol for taking personal responsibility for our lives. Typically, most students experience this separation through attending college. In my experience, I had a pre-mature separation, which helped with my transition to college. I attended a boarding school in seventh and eighth grade. There I learned to hand wash clothes, organize my time, and also become more independent. This is not only a transition for us but it is also a transition for our parents. Parents have to go through the transition of letting go of their children to run their own race.

Smith also points out that the thing holding us back the most is not an external element, but it is the fear that lurks within us. When it comes to vocation, will we have the courage to do what we are called to do? Plato once said that “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”. We need to “learn to overcome our fears and live in courage” in order to become men and women of virtue. Smith also notes that true courage has several notable qualifiers: wisdom, moral integrity, gratitude and humility, and patience. This applies to the modern world with so much division and people believing that they are being courageous and standing up for the right thing.

Lastly, Smith identifies the impact of continuous learning. It is crucial that we view learning as vital to who we are, not just for our occupation. Continuous learning offers opportunities of growth and personal development. With all this learning, exhaustion tends to come in the way of how and what we learn, then how do we deal with exhaustion? Smith responds, “The antidote to exhaustion may not be rest but wholeheartedness… we are typically exhausted because we are not doing our TRUE work”. This goes back to what our vocational calling is. In order to seek wholeheartedness in order pursuit of continuous learning, we need to do what we are called to do.

Currently, I am still on the journey of finding my vocational calling. Smith approached this subject in a biblical manner. His outline of finding these callings and the factors that play into it pointed me in the right direction and gave myself an idea of what a true calling looks and feels like.