On Vocation

Yesterday in church we talked about the topic of vocation.  Not what you do for a living, but more accurately, how you live.  The idea that rather than praying for a life of greater Christian witness, we already have the possibility to live amazing lives of faith just by being the people we have been created to be and doing the things that are already at hand to be done.  In case I doubted for some reason the importance of a proper perspective of vocation, the Barna Group has charted a trend that shows that people ages 18-29 have a hard time linking their faith to the careers they hope to pursue, which leads them to drop out of the church.  

But I don’t doubt the importance of vocation, even without the Barna Group’s affirmation on the topic.  I think it’s just as crucial a doctrine as it was 500 years ago.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, there was this idea that the truly Christian life was devoted somehow to serving the Lord professionally – as a priest or a monk.  These were the best and highest callings, and all other duties and jobs were second-rate or worse.  The Reformers recognized that this was ridiculous, and the doctrine of vocation was a reaction against the bias by the Church, for the Church.  
A farmer serves the Lord and his neighbor by growing food.  A truck driver serves the Lord and his neighbor by driving the harvested food to a grocery store.  A stock boy serves God and his neighbor by stocking the produce.  The cashier serves the Lord and her neighbor by totaling up people’s groceries and taking their payment.  A mother serves the Lord and her neighbor by cooking up the food for her family.  A father serves the Lord and his neighbor by cleaning up the dishes after dinner.  And so on and so on and so on.  God serves his creation through a myriad of human vocations, so that we all become masks for God’s sustaining work.  
These days I don’t think there’s much of a popular opinion that says that professional church work is somehow a higher calling than any other.  But that doesn’t mean that people don’t have a hierarchical view of things instilled in them.  Thanks to a bevy of Christian inspirational speakers and writers and even pastors, people are more and more made to feel as though their lives of faith are lacking, but that they can turbo-charge their lives if they will just pray/serve/study/tithe more.  If you just buy this book, follow this program, attend this seminar – your life can be a vibrant, joy-filled and exciting adventure for the rest of your life!  
The unstated flip-side of this is that if your life isn’t a vibrant, joy-filled and exciting adventure every waking moment, perhaps you’re not a good enough Christian.  Perhaps you haven’t really given your heart to Jesus.  It can’t be God’s fault after all, so it must be yours.  Every year, millions (or probably billions) of dollars are spent on books and seminars and programs that promise people their lives can be massively different.  It’s a fantastic market because when people realize that one program or book or seminar wasn’t effective, they’re ready to try again.  And because there are often mountain-top experiences where a spiritual or emotional high is experienced for a brief period of time, people seem to assume that the mountaintop is where they are supposed to be living, and that the more typical experience of a plain or a valley is somehow the sign of a defective faith life.
Teaching vocation is important.  Not as a means to an end, but because it’s true.  It’s sad that Christians more and more see their faith as disconnected from the rest of their life.  Every Christian ought to be able to recognize that they are serving their God and their neighbor when they faithfully carry out the vocations of spouse, parent, sibling, child, employer, employee, congregant, neighbor, etc. that we all wear.  It infuses those tasks in our life that are not particularly glamorous or even enjoyable with a deeper meaning.  It heightens the joy we experience at other times as we fulfill our vocational calling.  It’s deceptively simple – much simpler on the surface than the constant drum-beat that many churches and speakers pound out, insisting that people must break through to a more energized life of faith by their own strength and will.  And yet because it doesn’t emphasize our own works and efforts (at least not in the same way) it’s very challenging for many people.  
So, fulfill your vocations today, whatever those might be!  

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