Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times. (Mark 4:3-8)
Between my research for Called to Create and Master of One, I have interviewed nearly 100 Christians who are world-class masters of their crafts. When I’ve asked these people to describe how they discerned their “calling” or their “one thing,” their responses are remarkably similar. Nearly all of these masters tended to ask three questions throughout this process:
1. What am I passionate about?
2. What gifts has God given me?
3. Where do I have the best opportunity to glorify God and serve others?
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s nice, but what does it look like for those three things to come together?”
I think it looks like the divine multiplication described by Jesus in The Parable of the Sower.
In his excellent book, Culture Making, Andy Crouch points out that this is essentially “a parable about parables—an explanation of the whole parable-telling strategy.” What Crouch means is that parables are a lot like seeds, in that the sower must be liberal in scattering them to large and diverse crowds in hopes that their truths will take root in the hearts of a few listeners. Viewed in that light, Jesus’s words not only offer us insight into how his Word is received, but they also provide a beautiful picture of how we should think about finding and focusing on our calling.
When you first start to try to answer the three questions above, you have little idea what your vocational “one thing” might be. So, you scatter seeds widely by trying a lot of different things professionally. Some of those “seeds” will fall on rocky places and some will fall among the thorns; but with enough experimentation, some seeds will fall on good soil that starts to show signs of divine multiplication where the Lord is clearly multiplying our work “so that it bears thirty, sixty and a hundredfold beyond what we could expect from our feeble inputs.”
That’s how masters describe discovering the intersection of passions, gifts, and opportunities. That’s what we’re looking for in our “one thing.”