Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Finding Our Vocations

In the book, God at Work, Gene Edward Veith dispels some commonly held notions about vocation and introduces new ways of thinking about the topic. Here are a couple of his major points -

Vocation involves more than your profession.

We often regard vocation and our professional life as synonymous. Yet, Veith makes the point that vocation actually cuts across our entire lives, touching upon the different spheres of responsibility that we've been called to. For instance, a man may be called to multiple vocations - a teacher, a husband, a father, a deacon and a citizen. In each of these callings, he is required by God to be faithful to his call.

"Our vocation is not one single occupation...we have callings in different realms - the workplace, yes, but also the family, the society, the church." (p. 47)

This is a wonderful perspective. Far too much of "vocation talk" is one dimensional, around professional careers, instead of seeing vocational life as multiple calls to various realms of our lives. Taking this view means seeing the woman with a call to serve as wife, mother, homemaker and Sunday School teacher no less called than the man called to serve as a father, husband, accountant and church elder.

We don't choose our vocation. Our vocation chooses us.

Veith doesn't exactly say it in that way, but it's the way I like to think about it. The essence of vocational life is this - we do not select our vocations, God calls us to our vocations.

"Despite what our culture leads us to believe, vocation is not self chosen. That is to say we do not choose our vocations. We are called to them." (p. 50)

In so doing, God's sovereign rule over our lives is revealed. Veith gives many examples where significant aspects of our vocations are chosen for us including our roles in our families, our cultural heritage and our citizenship. Still, you might say - "we chose our line of work, did we not?". Here's what Veith says in response.

"...it is simply not true, in the ultimate sense, that we choose our lifework. If I were to choose what I really wanted to do, I might pick something like 'Major League Baseball player.' But no matter how much I might yearn to go into that line of work, no matter how much I 'choose' it, I could never get on a Major League roster. I do not have the talent or the ability...Baseball is clearly not my vocation." (p. 52)

His point is that God shapes us and prepares us uniquely for the vocation He calls us to. He limits us in some ways and gifts us in other ways.

"The doctrine of vocation has to do with the mystery of individuality, how God creates each human being to be different from all the rest and gives each a unique calling in every stage of life." (p. 52)

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Seen in proper light, this can be both humbling and liberating at the same time.

We need not strive to be something we're not.
We can resist the temptation to compare ourselves to others.
We can be content in our labor and humble in the use of our gifts.

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9 comments:

Gideon Strauss said...

I really appreciate these insights, especially as far as they recognize the sovereignty of God, and the comprehensive nature of vocation. Os Guinness and others also distinguish between our "primary" or "general" calling (the calling to respond to God) and our "secondary" or "particular" calling (the calling to a given life, including work, family, place, and all the other details).

Every Square Inch said...

Gideon

I'm benefiting from Veith's book. The idea of vocation in all of life, though obvious to some, is very helpful to me. It provides me a broader understanding of vocation...one consistent with what the Bible teaches.

I also like the perspective of primary/general and the secondary/particular calling. I'll have to check out Os Guinness' book as well.

Craver Vii said...

Yes, yes, but how do you find your VAcation? I have to take a week between now and September and I don't know what to do with it.

Every Square Inch said...

Craver

I can always count on you to bring a smile with your visits. Yes, thanks for taking us out of the ethereal concepts on vocation to something more relevant to the summer months ahead - yes, I too am looking forward to finding my vacations.

HALFMOM said...

I really appreciate this post as it addresses something I've been thinking about lately - what is my vocation - and finding that it depends on what "hat" I'm wearing when I ask the question as to the answer I seem to come up with.

L.L. Barkat said...

It's interesting to think that, perhaps, a quality like "encourager" cuts across different roles. In fact, I think that as a writer it's important for me to remember who I really am in terms of these qualities... then I can more easily make decisions about which assignments to accept and which to pass up, which publications to pursue and which to forget about.

Every Square Inch said...

Halfmom,

May God graciously guide you in exploring your vocation.

LL,

If I understand the point you're making, a vocation might not only be understood as an "officially defined" role but also as an expression of God's call to use our gifts or "qualities"

HALFMOM said...

I like LL's interpretation - because I can see encouragement as my common theme and motivation whatever "hat" I'm wearing - mom, friend, counselor, professor, researcher - to encourage them that God is worthy...

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, I like the thoughts here and agree. I especially like the fact that we each have our niche and our limitations. And is is so important to realize that there's more to our lives than just "serving the Lord" or our "job/work". I'm afraid us men can settle into that and leave our women to be wearing all kinds of hats that maybe they should not be altogether wearing.