Calling Part 1:

How to Discover Your Calling

Calling Part 1: How to Discover Your Calling

Daniel O'Brien

What to do if you are unsure about what you are called to do.


When I look back at the big decisions and changes throughout my life, I have experienced my calling differently. One clear, definitive call from the Lord happened shortly after college while I was substitute teaching and looking for the next step in my career. A friend from my time as an English education undergrad at Ashland University invited me to apply as an English teacher and missionary in Funehiki, Japan with the Wakakusa English Program. I had never before considered living overseas, and the idea was intimidating. I took a long drive after work the next day and prayed for guidance. At that moment, God laid on my heart that my life was meant for more than I had planned and that I should step through the door He was opening. He granted me clarity at that moment, and I immediately applied, interviewed and was hired. However, while preparing to depart, the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 struck the area I would move. With plans disrupted, I patiently waited until the other teachers and I were permitted to go. We arrived close enough to the event that we experienced daily aftershocks, continuous cleanup and the lingering threat of radiation. Still, I hoped the help we provided and our presence encouraged the Japanese people. I frequently prayed that I could be a blessing in the lives of the students, teachers and friends we made in our little Japanese town. While the adventure of being overseas eventually settled into simple daily living, I have always thanked the Lord for such a clear call in my life.

Other times, determining a calling has not been as definitive as that experience. In hindsight, I can see how the Lord knitted circumstances together to form my journey, but the path forward felt much more muddled in the moment of decision-making. 


What do you do when you are unsure about what to do? 


When it was time for me to return to the United States and decide what to do next, I experienced a period of indecision before choosing librarianship. I knew I did not want to return to classroom teaching in America, so I had a big decision to make about my career. While there were multiple career ideas I entertained, I kept reminiscing about working as a student shelver in my hometown’s public library. I admired how librarians serve their communities and recognized that my personality, strengths and quirks fit well with being a librarian. I realized that I could use the unique gifts the Lord blessed me with to be a blessing to others, and I decided. I applied to graduate schools for librarianship, which led to my Master’s in Library and Information Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. When I think back to that time and how unsure I felt in my indecision, I can see how other career paths were equally valid choices. Ultimately our primary calling is to love the Lord and then love others. We should follow God in this mission throughout our lives, and we shouldn’t feel paralyzed in working out the details. As believers, we can have faith that the Lord works circumstances to His good and that He is pleased when we use our individual giftings to contribute to the body of Christ and to care for the communities around us.

A community of believers working together can dramatically impact calling. As the librarian for GRACE Christian School’s grades 7-12 campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, I saw the Lord bring others alongside me to share in my calling. None of the invigorating collaboration, expert teaching or technological leaps forward would have happened without many people committed to living out the school’s mission every day. As a school, we were unified in our mission to be “a loving community that spiritually and academically equips, challenges, and inspires students to impact their world for Jesus Christ.” That unity within our community together made all the difference. My wife and I loved working at GRACE, but we weren’t meant to stay forever.

Our call back to Ohio actually began as a joke during dismal circumstances. At the end of a particularly brutal December which my father spent in the hospital, my wife and I sat in our car looking at twinkling Christmas lights on my hometown’s square. We teased each other that moving back to the tundra of Ohio wouldn’t be all that bad if we needed to be closer to my family. My father thankfully recovered over the next year, and Kristin and I revisited the idea in earnest. Moving would mean significant change and cost for both of us, but we recognized our changing circumstances and knew what we were called to do. Towards the end of that fall semester, we told our GRACE community we would not return the next school year. Looking toward a future without jobs or home was unsettling, but God had provided for us when we followed His call before, and we trusted that He would provide again during this shift in our lives. 

I discovered the open position at Ashland Theological Seminary in my search for library jobs. As an Ashland University alumnus, I was familiar with the Ashland area and school and applied for the job. It seemed ideal. Moving here would close the distance between my parents and us. And even though I have lived in several different places, Ohio has always been home. Ashland is currently where we are meant to be. Since being hired at the seminary, the Lord has again provided a special community. I can use my unique calling as a librarian to bless those who come here to explore and work toward living out their own callings. It is a fantastic place to be. 


What is the Lord calling you to do, and what decision are you working toward today?

About the Author,
Daniel O'Brien


Daniel is the Circulation and Digital Services Librarian at the Seminary, working to curate collections of digital resources for students, help guide research, and answer reference questions, fulfill OhioLINK and Interlibrary Loan requests, and handle circulation services.

Originally from Chardon, Ohio, Daniel comes to the Seminary after living and working for several years out of state. He earned his Master’s Degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensborough. Prior to embarking on his journey as a librarian, Daniel served for three years overseas teaching English on mission with the Wakakusa English Program in Funehiki, Japan. He is grateful for the time he had this position, and will never forget the lessons he learned living amidst a different culture and people.

While in Japan, Daniel met his wife Kristin, an English teacher from Ellaville, Georgia. They do not have any children yet but pour their affection into an adult orange tabby cat named Canyon, who they adopted from a no-kill shelter in Mebane, NC. When he is not in the Seminary Library, Daniel likes to hike, travel, and he serves on the worship team at Substance church. An alumnus of Ashland University, Daniel feels privileged to be able to give back and provide service to a school, town, and community that helped shape him during the formative years of his life.

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