Find Your Calling: Fundamentals
Updated: Jan 8, 2019
I recently mentioned to some friends that just before God called us into long-term missions in Japan I spent a few weeks “reverse engineering” my life. One of them followed up with me afterwards and wanted to know more, so in these next three posts I’m writing down a little of my story and the 3 processes that God used to change and set the direction of my life. I hope these will be helpful for you. Part 1 will describe the Five Fundamentals process, part 2 will explore the concept of Ikigai, and part 3 will walk through the process of Reverse Engineering life. Christina has also created a helpful printable page if you want to grab a pen and get to it. A notebook also works.
FYI: I was 28 years old when I began working through these processes, and had spent much of my life as a working musician/artist. I also had one thing settled in my mind: I want to be a useful tool for God to use in building his Kingdom, for Christ to use in building His Church.
#1: Five Fundamentals
In every discipline there are fundamentals. There are certain things that you do over and over, that you drill until you can do them in your sleep, and no matter how good you get you still spend time practicing these things. For me as a flutist, the fundamentals were always tonal exercises and scales. Everything comes down to those two things because they enable everything else to happen. In a 2 hour practice session I can easily spend 3/4 of the time on scales and tone work. The rest is just putting things in the right order. When I was a Combatives trainer for the U.S. Army, we spent the bulk of our time drilling fundamental Jiu Jitsu patterns. There were a lot of different moves and you could never know exactly what was going to happen in a fight, but the responses always flowed out of those fundamental patterns. (I’m not much with sports, so insert your favorite example of sports fundamentals here).
The same is true in life. Your life and mine have fundamentals. Some of them are similar, and others are unique to us. So, grab a pen and write down the most important areas of your life; the things that you need to keep chipping away at and working on every day in order to enable the rest of life to happen. For me right now there are 5 fundamentals:
Spiritual (Prayer, Fasting, Studying Scripture, and Reading supplementary material)
Marital (Talking, Planning, Touching, and Praying with my wife)
Parental (Talking, Playing, Teaching, and Praying with my kids)
Physical (Exercising, Eating)
Musical/Artistic (Practicing, Performing, Listening, Reading, Composing, Producing)
Your key areas may differ from these, and your list may have more than five areas (or fewer). It’s less about the rubric and more about just figuring out which things you have to continually upkeep and improve to enable yourself and your family/community to flourish. It’s totally possible that these areas change over time. I’ll briefly explain each of my fundamental areas and why I chose them.
Spiritual: The Bible tells us that humans are a union of body and spirit. As a Christian I believe that my ultimate purpose is found in glorifying and enjoying God. One of the great ongoing narratives in Scripture tells of the spiritual war taking place on the Earth, of which we are a part. As a soldier in this war I cannot neglect my training. This means seeking to know God better, to honor his ways, to live a life of faithful worship. The primary disciplines I pursue here are Prayer, Fasting, studying the Scripture, and reading the work of Godly men and women meant to feed my soul and help me understand the Bible better. I also find music and art that feeds my soul and make a point to engage with it regularly.
Marital: Aside from my relationship with Jesus, my relationship to my wife is the most important thing to maintain and develop. In different seasons this takes more work or less, but we’ve found that we have to talk and plan things together, touch each other frequently, and pray together frequently, because the tone of our marriage sets the tone for our whole family.
Parental: My next-most important relationship is with my kids. They need time and touch, they need me to listen to them, and they need me to instruct them in the ways of the Lord and help them understand and look critically at the ways of the world. My life is meant to be a springboard for them, and I think most parents would agree that if your kids aren’t flourishing it pushes challenges up the chain into your marital and spiritual relationships.
Physical: My body grows sideways pretty easily. If I’m not moderating my intake and exercising, pants start to get tight. If I’m not exercising regularly, I actually get moody and can become temporarily depressed/angry without good cause. This affects my relationships and my ability to work well. Also, I’m a dad with young kids and I don’t need to be a bodybuilder, but I do want to be a dad who doesn’t tire out throwing his kids in the air or chasing after them. A pattern of physical health now also sets me up for physical health and independence when I’m old(er).
Musical/Artistic: This one’s just for me. I’m a mixture of creative and analytical mind, but if I’m not being creative I find my soul condition suffers. This is also my primary skill set and means of feeding my family, as well as my primary avenue for ministry, so if I’m failing to develop in this area then I am not serving my purpose well.
Recognizing my 5 Fundamentals was only a starting point. All this sounds great on paper, but for two straight years (2013-2014) my main spiritual focus and battle was toward having discipline in these areas. Many days it still is. But God used this process to help set patterns of development in my life that carry over into my longterm trajectory (Reverse Engineering) and core life purpose (Ikigai).