This is a reaction to the post Resist that calling. It’s probably not your purpose in life by Fred Swaniker. Mr. Swaniker is the founder and formal CEO of African Leadership Group which has under its wings the AL Academy, AL Network, AL University and Africa Advisory Group. His goal in life is to bring positive change to the African continent by identifying, developing and connecting three million game-changing leaders in Africa by 2060.
With the help of his own recent experience of starting the AL University project, Mr. Swaniker offers his insight and advice to other young Africans who wonder what their calling should be in this world. He started by establishing how ordinary his childhood had been and how thanks to different government and other international initiatives he was able to afford a good education. Because of that, he always felt like he had a special calling for his life, a greater responsibility to the African continent, and whenever faced with social injustice he felt compelled to do something about it.
When he thinks of his own experience and the advice that he would give to young Africans who are often faced with the same dilemma, Mr. Swaniker has three questions that should help us decide on whether or not one should be involved in a given initiative:
- Is it big enough?
- Am I uniquely positioned more than almost anyone else in the world to make this happen?
- Am I truly passionate? (i.e. does this issue pass the sleepless night test?)
According to Mr. Swaniker, if any of the answers to these three questions is no, then you should keep on with your life, because dear inspired and ambitious African pal, this is not your call.
I read this piece after seeing it shared by three of my Rwandan friends on Facebook with positive comments of inspiration. It is very well written and explains why these questions are the right ones to ask. Besides, it gives a real life example to show how these three questions were applied in an actual big decision making moment and helped the author realize this big step towards his dream.
However, recently I got to visit a friend with whom I watched the Bible series (the episode of the Exodus) and got to read Moses’ calling from the burning bush. A couple of things stood up to me and reminded me of this post. Moses’ calling and mission to free the Israelites from the Egyptian slavery is one of the biggest turning points in history. Not only because Moses brought God’s people back to their land where all the events had to happen to prepare the way for the savior, but also because it is from Moses that we have the first five books of the Bible, books that set the foundation on who God is, who people are, and what their relationship with God is and ought to be. So I think that I am not wrong to say that Moses’ work was his calling and purpose in life. I think that it is a great example to use to either prove or disprove Mr. Swaniker’s three-question theorem.
- Is it big enough? we would agree that Moses’ mission is big because it changed lives of more than a million Israelites who had been enslaved in Egypt for more than four centuries and had lost hope of ever being free again. It also restarted the history of humans and YHWH, the God who was once friends with Abraham but was forgotten to the point that He had to reintroduce himself to Moses. This is the great history that more than a billion people in the world still believe in. So I think that yes the mission was big enough.
- Am I uniquely positioned for the job? I would not say that Moses or anyone at the time was uniquely positioned for this. When God appeared to Moses, he was a guy who had fled Egypt after committing a murder. Moses himself asked God “who am I that you would send me to Pharaoh?” I am sure that Moses had some qualities, but he was surely not uniquely positioned more than anyone else in the world to do this. That’s why God in reply just said “I will go with you”. So it is God who is uniquely positioned and chooses you to do his work. From reading Exodus 3 and 4, I actually think that Moses was convinced that he was absolutely not the guy for the job! Sure, he had had the advantage of growing up in Pharaoh’s palace and would have learned to be a leader. On the other hand however, he knew very little about his people since he had never lived with them. Besides, Israelites were an organized group in Egypt with elders and leaders, so Moses was surely not the only person with leadership skills at the time.
- Am I truly passionate? It is true that Moses killed an Egyptian who was attacking a Jewish slave. That however could as well be an angry reaction that some people would have if they saw their fellow ones mistreated. I say this because after the incident Moses fled the country, founded a family in Midian and didn’t go back to Egypt until God came to find him about 40 years later. So again, I don’t think that Moses couldn’t sleep at night because of the suffering of his people in Egypt, but it was rather God who couldn’t bare seeing his children suffer anymore.
It is true that a lot in this world needs fixing. However, as a believer it is important to be able to distinguish an inspirational speech that sounds good and practical from what God would want you to do. Another thing to notice is that when Moses received his big mission he must have been in his eighties. This is another reminder that although your calling might be there, it will not necessarily come to you in your twenties. What’s important is to stay ready to answer whenever the call comes. Until then, do not try to answer your own questions to prove how unique you are for doing what you are doing. Beware also of your own laziness that might always convince you that you are never the right person to do whatever needs to be done. It is very possible and easy to never find yourself “uniquely positioned” for anything if you decide to rely on your own abilities. At the end of the day it is not about how great you are at it, but how great God working in you is! So don’t boast and don’t complain, just wake up and go if you are called at it!
Note: While I made this analysis from a believer’s point of view, there are lots of examples outside of the bible that would show that not all callings have to necessarily fulfill the three questions mentioned above. For fear of making this post unbearably/unnecessarily long, I did not include them but would love to discuss those in the comments on request.