Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vocation (Part III)

So, given the various thoughts and developments on the topic of vocation and what we can learn from scripture, where does that leave me?

My Mission: The Mission of God
I now believe that the question is not, "What am I called to do?" The question is, "What is the mission of God and how can I take part in it?" That means being the redemptive hand of God right where He's placed me. It means following God into my home, my neighborhood, my workplace, and my civic and political communities to serve God and neighbor.

In a 1972 Goshen College convocation address Allan Howe said: “The real vocation of the Christian is not to do any particular job but to put his [or her] whole life into the Kingdom movement – into building up … the community of love and peace which lives as an expanding colony of hope in the midst of a confused and hostility-filled society.”

So then, back to my job angst over the last years. What does this realignment do to how I deal with my job and my career direction?

Finding a Career and Picking a Spouse
You know, the metaphor that has clarified this for me is to think about how I view marriage. I lean towards a Calvinistic view of a sovereign and omniscient God, but regardless of whether or not God knows or has planned my spouse or my jobs/career, I am human and therefore will never be able to see it like He does. I am (by design) meant to journey through my life, unable to see the next stage, making decisions about what to do next.

When I considered marrying Isaac I didn't try to figure out if he was "the One", this mystical soulmate that was meant for me. I think that most of the time God simply asks us to make a decision, and make it wisely, so I just spent a lot of time considering Isaac's character, our dreams, and how our personalities fit together. We got advice from family and friends, and ultimately decided that we could commit to spend our lives in a sacred union.

Ultimately deciding a career is the same thing. It is a big decision, but it's not that there's a wrong or a right road, there's just the responsibility to listen to God and choose wisely. That is really freeing to me. I think I have been TOO focused on what I am supposed to do with my life, when in reality it doesn't matter WHAT I do so much as how I do what I do. It takes the intensity out of the decision for me and places the emphasis on my responsibility to live well in daily life.

Obedience Resulting in Contentment
That leads me to one other thought. When Fredrick Beuchner says that vocation is, "the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet," I agree, but with a caveat. I think that quote gives too much room to our own narcissism. It's about what makes ME glad. Instead, I think when we follow the mission of God as it works out through our life, we are made glad. So yes, I think that when we are able to meet the deep hunger of the world with the love of God, we are made glad. But you know what, in the process sometimes it might mean changing diapers or working a desk job or other less than fun things.

I have really struggled to be content in this stage of life. My 9-5 job is not related to what I want to do long-term, and so I have felt stuck just trying to pay us through Isaac's graduate degree. I have felt useless. That perspective places undue emphasis on my career, as if it is more important than the rest of life that I'm called to (marriage, community, refugees, etc.). Where I'm at in life right now is necessitated by my vocation rather than preempting my vocation. This was strange timing, but one of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer at Conversion Diary talked about vocation this week and I really resonated with what she said:

Many times I've felt frustrated that God seemed to put some desire on my heart that was practically impossible to complete given the restrictions of my vocation...On the occasions that I've managed to be obedient to my duties first, it's been stunning to see how God has opened one unlikely door after another to allow me to fulfill those desires within the constraints of my vocation.... I've found rest and peace in the knowledge that what God wants first and foremost is that I simply, lovingly fulfill the basic duties he's set in front of me as a wife and a mother.
So, in the end, I feel like I can leave my work or stay at my work. That is not the point. The point is to engage fully wherever I am and everywhere I am as unto God.

Ordained for Life

One final thought in this already-too-long post and series. Given that my personal challenge is to engage fully at my work, I was really struck by this ordination ceremony that an innovative church in DC does with church members in the working world. This is a part of their liturgy:

Minister to Participant: Your work and your worship are intimately interwoven. In fact, they are not separate at all: Your work grows out of your worship and your worship grows out of your work. (Name), do you come today to acknowledge that the place where you work is as holy as the place where you worship?

Participant: I do. Enabled by Christ’s love for me, I shall endeavor to make each day’s work a sacrament. I pray that my work will be cleansed of all spiritual or material selfishness, of all impatience or criticism, of all impatience or criticism, of all secret desire for consolation, recognition or reward. Turn, O God, my seeing into loving, that I may witness to the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for all men. In His name I make my prayer. Amen.


Anonymous said...

What DC church is that last part from?

Slamdunk said...

"So yes, I think that when we are able to meet the deep hunger of the world with the love of God, we are made glad. But you know what, in the process sometimes it might mean changing diapers or working a desk job or other less than fun things."

Well said--with my mind on diaper changing and our young twins. God Bless you in your walk.

Mason said...

I've quite enjoyed this series, thank you for sharing it.

I too struggle with vocation as, like you, what I'm doing now has little to do with what I want to do long-term. It pays the bills, and the people are nice, but it's not a career I'm interested in.

You're right though, the important part is not that we are in this one perfect destined role (though there is a place for that), what matters is that we live out the kingdom where we are today. It's not easy but it is indeed what we're called to.