The vocational calling of every person begins in the act of creation.
The story of vocation starts with creation. The Hebrew verb that describes God’s creative work in the first chapters of Genesis is bara, a word which always has God as its subject. Only God can create something out of nothing. He creates with his speech: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Lux fiat et lux fuit.
God spoke each creature into existence with a unique word that echoes in its being for all eternity, calling it toward the purpose for which it was created. Every creature receives its being in view of a concrete role. When God creates, he calls.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for “calling” is klesis, which, like bara, refers to a divine act that is always efficacious. Creation and calling are inseparably linked. God creates by calling. We could say that when God created, he called the universe into existence. The God who calls us is the same God who created us, and He calls us according to his design. In the case of persons, that design is the imago Dei, the image of God.
Every “image of God” is unique and unrepeatable. Because the imago Dei is the foundation of human dignity—and because we acknowledge that all people have equal dignity—it’s common to think about the image of God as an abstract sameness in every person (as if we could just strip the extraneous stuff to find the same mold, the “image of God,” hidden underneath every person). Our society tends to equate equality with sameness.
The truth is that each person is a totally unrepeatable image of God, called from the beginning to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:30). By “conform,” Paul doesn’t mean that each person will be the image of the Son, but that each person will assume the shape, the “form” of Jesus Christ, so that each person can be a part of his Body.