What is your vocation? My vocation is to help others discern their vocation and embrace what they do as vocation.
The idea of vocation as calling and not career is not new, but it has often been distorted by those who refer to being a pastor or missionary as a calling but being a builder or computer programmer as a career or job. None of these four are our calling, but they are all ways of living out our calling. I learned about this as a youth pastor from one of my friends who owned and operated a window and door business* and then it was first articulated for me when postmodern writings sought to erase the secular/sacred divide, but there really is a thread that runs all the way back through the Reformation, monasticism, and right back to the incarnation. I won’t trace the thread here,** but I want to share a few comments and quotes from a recent read, Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood by David P. Setran and Chris A. Kiesling.
They [and I] lament that
Rather than attaching adult status to a sense of “responsibility for” dependent others, adulthood is now linked more to a “freedom from” constraining others. In some ways, this shift has acted to sever the tight correlation between adulthood and other-directed vocation.
Adulthood is not primarily about freedom from parents and authorities but about becoming a responsible person who contributes to the “common good.”
To be a responsible person is to find one’s role in the building of shalom, the rewebbing of God, humanity, and all creation in justice, harmony, fulfillment, and delight. To be a responsible person is to find one’s own role and then, funded by the grace of God, to fill this role and to delight in it.
This “role” is what vocation is.
Equating vocation with a paid occupation can overvalue this sphere, producing tendencies toward workaholism. In addition, such a perspective has the tendency to divest other activities of their meaning and importance in the life of the kingdom.
Studying nutrition, writing poems, thinking critically, serving coffee, making meals, taking a bus, looking after children, painting a picture, writing theology papers, playing soccer, participating in class discussions, recording a song, making a video, walking to work, packing fruit… these are all important vocational activities*** that contribute to the flourishing of humanity [or the building of shalom, the common good or the life of God’s kingdom].
*This story is told in chapter 10 of my book, Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality.
**See Living Faith: Embracing God’s Calling by Keith Graber Miller, Kingdom Calling by Amy Sherman, The Call by Os Guinness.
***This list is dedicated to my daughter, daughter-in-law, and three sons.