Today’s guest post comes from Eric Morgan, one of an excellent class of students from Bethel Seminary who recently studied the intersection between faith, vocation and work.
Do we even have time for vocation? My daughter has honors math, literature, and chemistry. She plays in the orchestra and runs track. Our factory education system is training her to leap the hurdles of achievement so she can position herself into a successful—economic & social—American life. This lifestyle will require constant work to continue moving forward and achieve a larger slice of the pie. Her job—whatever she chooses—will be the fulcrum to leverage this maneuver. This will take up so much of her time and efforts that she won’t have time for a vocation. She’ll be so busy “doing work” that she may convince herself that it has become her vocation. The wisdom of her work choice will be revealed in the lifestyle she is able to leverage. That will be how America will measure her success.
So what can I teach her about vocation?
In Genesis God establishes his covenant with Abraham. He says that Israel will be his people and he will be their God. As God passes between the halves of the animals this covenant is set upon a foundation for all time. This, I think, is the foundation of the vocation of Israel. Vocation asks, “Who are you and what do you do?” Israel’s answer is, “We are God’s people, called by his name, forgiven by his hand, blessed by God that all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” That’s the definition of who they are and why they exist.
Israel received God’s blessing in order that they might be a blessing to the rest of the world. That is their vocation—to reflect God’s presence to the whole earth. How were they to do this? Obedience. The everyday living of their lives—their coming and going, living and dying—was to grow out of that covenant relationship.
I think this covenant is still in effect today. The Gentile world has been grafted onto Israel’s vocation through the cross of Christ. We are Christ’s people, called by his name, forgiven, and sent out to witness to the world Christ’s forgiveness and God’s abiding love.
Vocation ask us a question of identity and purpose. The answer can’t simply be your job, that thing you do for money. It has to be more than that. At a foundational level my vocation has to be my faith. Who am I? I am God’s child, made in his image, a little lower than the angels. What is my purpose? It is to obey God’s direction and to reflect his glory. How do I do this? That’s where it gets interesting.
Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? NKJV
Or in The Message:
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.
So, my message to my daughter Amelia is this, love God first and foremost to the best of your ability—love other people just as much as you love yourself. That is your vocation. How will you do this? Or, what work will you perform in the process? Find out what you like; what you are good at; and what challenges you. Chase those things until you have an understanding of them—then practice using them in different places and settings and with various people. But, you’ll have to start early and soon. And, you’ll have to be deliberate about it. You have to try and fail sometimes on the way to success. Don’t be afraid of change. Your vocation is permanent. God will always be in a relationship with you—one that’s either growing deeper or shrinking. Change will come to your life repeatedly. But, God’s love is constant.