I mentioned last week that I spent time recently with friends from college, and this group loves asking deep questions about life and faith. During our time together, we had some assigned reading by Parker Palmer (Let your Life Speak) on the topic of vocation.
I find most discussions within the Christian community around vocation to be quite confusing. Why? Because they invariably involve some concoction of Biblical wisdom mixed with a Western “follow your passion” ideology. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” and that sort of thing.
Certainly, I don’t believe God wants us to do something we hate with our lives. But what does vocation look like for the person whose only career possibility is making bricks each day?
Also, invariably, many western approaches to vocation or calling are quite individualistic. But when we look at significant accounts of God’s calling in scripture (Abraham, Jonah, etc.) often they are called by God to do the very opposite of what they may want to do, all for a greater purpose and for the benefit of others.
As you can see, I don’t have any easy answers to the idea of biblical calling, but what surprises me is just how many of us, even people with lots of vocational experience behind us, are still asking these questions.
When we were young, we may have expected the questions would be settled by time. That mindset is embedded in us as we are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The reality is that getting older doesn’t necessarily bring clarity to our vocation. The clarity often comes through intentional wrestling with big questions, hopefully within the context of our faith communities. Here are a few that you may want to address in your work with people who are searching in regard to vocation:
– How can we thoughtfully and faithfully address th topic of vocation without just repeating the cultural refrains of “do what you love?”
– How can we be honest about our own wrestling with our calling in. away that is sensitive and encouraging, and doesn’t further the gap between clergy and laity?
– How can we call upon our own people, perhaps in worship, to share how God has met them in their own callings as Christians in the workplace, the home and wherever else God has placed them?
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