09/24/2011 08:37 am ET | Updated Nov 24, 2011

What Are You Called to Do? Finding Spiritual Purpose In The Field

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." --Matthew 13:44

Around the age of 10, I remember adults beginning to ask me an odd question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" As a child living in poverty, to me the answer was a no brainer. "I want to be rich" was always my answer. Most of time it was received with laughter. Sadly, I think too many young people start out life thinking about what they want to become in life based on what they want have in life. Rarely do we say that we want a life and a career that will allow us to have joy, peace, fulfillment and balance. We typically think about a career that will allow us to buy things that we hope will give us joy, peace and fulfillment, and then we later learn these items can't be purchased.

Over the years I've learned that there are many adults living the kind of life I once lived. One that follows an educational and career path that, if lucky, will yield the social and monetary results that will buy you the things we define as making up "the good life" -- a life driven by the pursuit of things and the public perception of success. And like me, many of them, even with all of their success, still will feel like something is missing, like there is something more they should be doing. For a fleeting moment they may even get a glimpse of what that thing is -- the thing I call true purpose -- but when they catch a glimpse of it, other emotions kick in: fear, doubt, concerns about whether they can really do it. As a result of not having all the answers many suppress the desire to pursue this sense of purpose and continue the life they have been living because it's safe.

Fifteen years ago I gave up the pursuit of the good life I thought I would find if I became a doctor and chose instead to accept a call to ministry. After I preached my first sermon, the pastor quoted Matthew 13:44: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." He said, "Romal, your assignment is to find that field." I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but about a year ago it hit me like a ton of bricks.

For years I spent my life searching for the treasure, using my gift and talents in the pursuit of success. But with every accomplishment and every goal achieved along the way, there was still a since of frustration and feeling unfulfilled. I never thought about finding the field; I was focused on the treasure. It was always there inside of me, waiting to be realized, but it was buried beneath selfish ambition and concern about public opinion.

All that changed in September 2010, when I attended the Fund for Theological Education Vocation Care Conference. The reflections, group discussions and questions raised, and spending time with people courageous enough to help each other pursue deeper meaning and purpose, changed my life. It gave me the courage to try. To look fear and doubt in the face and refuse to let it keep me from finding and cultivating the field that possessed my treasure.

When I left that conference, I had found my field and decided to start cultivating it until the treasure revealed itself. With the help of friends, I started writing the plan for a new organization that would seek to connect churches across the country to implement strategies that will improve the academic performance of under-performing students living in poverty and attending high needs schools. With the help of friends courageous enough to try something new, we created Faith for Change. Faith for Change launched seven months ago and already we are working with churches, children and schools in eight cities.

The Fund for Theological Education is preparing for the Calling Congregations Conference under the theme of Awakening the Courage to C.A.R.E. I'm deeply indebted to FTE for what the VocationCARE conference inspired in me.