There's something about sacrifice that is especially attractive to many people of faith. Sometimes it's more the romantic idea of it that is the real draw, and sometimes it's some strange and even sadistic felt need to impose sacrifice on others; a love of "shoulding" on other people.
As a result, verses like “take up your cross” become tools to shame people into staying in a situation they’re not suited for.
Let's be honest about the nature of calling and cross-bearing. Part of one’s calling does involve doing things that will stretch you or frustrate you, and you’re meant to rise to the occasion and, even in failure, you can learn and grow. You're truly gifted for what the situation asks of you, but it takes extra effort and imagination to get through it. This is a real dimension of fulfilling a particular role in the world.
But in other instances such hardship becomes too much. Something becomes too demanding, or too emotionally draining, or too far beyond your own resources. Some element of your role truly becomes too much to handle.
In these cases one may be tempted to think that this is your Jeremiah-like burden: you have to stick it out and endure it even through pain or abuse or burnout, no matter what. Because, after all, you’re CALLED. This is your CALLING and this is what CALLED people have to put up with. I am DENYING MYSELF SO HARD RIGHT NOW, YOU GUYS.
Or we may remind ourselves of that story we once heard or read about that one person who stuck it out in a difficult moment and eventually everything became fruitful and wonderful and life-giving. Also, they just published a new book and they’re speaking at Big Important Conference next month.
We may remember this person's story and try to convince ourselves that we should all be like them, that our story can, will, and/or should play out exactly like theirs. Maybe that's even part of this successful, admirable person's message when talking about how things worked out for them: I did it, so should you.
Except no, sometimes we actually shouldn’t.
Our burden may be ours for a while, until it's time for it not to be. And we're not meant to re-create someone else's story; instead, we're meant to write our own.
We don't talk often enough about how seasonal a calling can be. We don't talk enough about the dynamics of personal finances and emotional reserves and family needs and toxic elements that make some callings too big of a challenge to overcome, and how there are actual limits that these things sometimes impose upon our ability, sanity, and spirit.
We also may consider that we all have more than one calling, more than one vocation. One of those is to your work or however else you characterize your main life mission.
You’re also called to be healthy for your loved ones and for yourself. After all, if you’re unhealthy, you won’t be in the right frame of life to fulfill your calling to begin with. You may be called to be a spouse, parent, friend, caregiver, and actual human being with personal needs. If you're not giving adequate attention to these other calls and needs, you won't be able to give good energy to that other one, either.
That’s what people who emphasize calling as sacrifice don’t acknowledge often enough. We’re gifted to do hard things, but our gifts aren't meant for every hard thing we face.
Take up your cross. And be discerning when it’s time to put it back down. Because due to the multi-dimensional reality of life, you’re already carrying more than one. Sometimes, one becomes heavy enough that you won't be able to keep carrying the others effectively.
Sometimes a calling becomes too hard. And at that point, it might not be yours any more.