Your Life Calling

What’s your vocation?

The idea that vocation in some way refers to what we do is pretty ingrained – at least in folks who have some awareness of the word and what it implies.  If we look at it linguistically, then vocation is a derivation of the Latin verb vocare, which means “to call” or “to name” or “to invoke”.    At one point in history, this was a rather broad term that was associated in a theological sense with God’s calling to humanity, and by extension, to individuals.  It became associated in religious circles with the idea of God’s calling on the life of an individual.  Eventually, this idea was narrowed further to focus specifically on a calling to church work, to full time ministry or ordination or the vows of a monastic order. 

But if the idea behind vocare and vocation is God’s calling on the life of an individual, what does that mean?  What is God’s call on the life of an individual, and is it Scriptural to assume that such a calling is in reference to the type of work that person does?  Is  the concept of vocation too narrow, in other words?  Is there anything Biblically that reinforces the idea that God is overly concerned with the type of work we do? 

To hear many Christians talk, the answer is yes.  It seems that many Christians have the idea that God has a specific intent for their work-life as well as their personal life, and that they are either in sync with that will or out of sync with that will.  The difficulty then becomes discerning that will.  How do I know if it’s God’s will for me to go to this college or that college?  How do I know if it’s God’s will for me to become a teacher or a nurse?  How do I know if it’s God’s will that I marry this person or not?

The implication is that if it’s not God’s will, it won’t be blessed. We’ll suffer.  We’ll experience trouble and hardship and doubt and uncertainty and failure.  And by extension, if we *are* in God’s will, then we’ll be blessed, we’ll enjoy prosperity and joy and a relatively smooth ride in our life.  All of this based on discerning God’s will and following it properly.  Like a child attempting to jump on a sidewalk without ever stepping on a crack because they don’t want to break their mother’s backs.  Except that in this case, the cracks in the sidewalk are invisible, leaving us to agonize about our next step lest disaster overtake us.  Our vocation becomes a new form of law that crushes us and weighs us down and forces our attention inwards to what we do, rather than outwards to whose we are.  This seems to be the theology that drives a lot of good Christians to agonize over what God is calling them to do. 

Is this what the Bible teaches us, though?

I don’t see a lot of Biblical emphasis on the type of work we do.  It’s clear that we are designed to work, but beyond that, we seem to be given a lot of latitude in what sort of work we choose.  Cain and Abel chose different professions, but it would be mistaken to say that God approved of Abel’s profession but not Cain’s.  The Bible exhorts us to diligence and faithfulness in whatever we do, but doesn’t focus a lot on what we do.  I don’t doubt that God has a calling on our lives, but is that calling specifically job related, or much broader?

I think it’s much broader. 

The vocation that God is concerned about for us in the Bible is not what we do but who we are – whose we are.  God’s calling on our lives as creations of God is to be in relationship with God.  This means, Biblically, that we acknowledge the identity and work of God the Father through God the Son, Jesus Christ, as empowered and led by God the Holy Spirit.  This is our vocation – right relationship.  This is our calling in the sense that God has a deep and eternal interest in whether or not we fulfill our calling, our vocation, as His creations by acknowledging that He is our Creator and responding in love and gratitude that He has not only created us but rescued and redeemed us.  A love and gratitude that overflow in love towards the rest of His creation, the rest of His creatures. 

My colleague Bob used the analogy of a father and a child.  The father loves the child.  The father’s love is not dependent on what the child does – it transcends it.  What the child does can affect the relationship between the father and the child, but it cannot change the love the father has for that child.  If the child decides to become a doctor, the father is happy for the child and encouraging and supportive.  If the child chooses to become a professional mime, the father may decide to make some alternative arrangements for his retirement planning, but loves the child all the same.  The love never changes.  The child has great freedom to live out their life within the love of the father. 

This doesn’t mean that the child can’t displease the father through their actions.  It doesn’t mean that the child can’t reject the father’s love, reject everything that the father has taught the child.  It doesn’t mean that the child can’t hurt or even destroy themselves through poor choices and willful disobedience.  This doesn’t change the love of the father.  The father loves the child through it all, in spite of it all.  The primary concern of the father is that the child be in relationship with him, and that the child be living their life in a way that does not harm themselves or others.  Even if that means being a mime.

Biblically, I’d argue that our vocation is right relationship with God.  Part of this involves internalizing the guidelines that He gave us for living our lives, and using those guidelines when making decisions about where to go to school, who to marry, what sort of employer to go to work for.  In the case of two options, where neither one violates how God wishes us to live our lives, we exercise our freedom, knowing that God’s love remains intact and surrounding us, and that God has not necessarily predetermined a ‘right’ vs. a ‘wrong’ path from this decision point.  We live in grace, not judgment, hope, not fear. 

Does this make any sense?

2 Responses to “Your Life Calling”

  1. USAfilms Says:

    Where have you ordered a design? Horror (((

  2. USAfilms Says:

    Where have you ordered a design? Horror (((

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