In our Wednesday morning Coffee Break group we are continuing to read Dr Gene Veith’s book God at Work We were talking about the process of going into vocation.
Dr Veith and I are both Lutheran both well informed in our theology, so when we talk about vocation, we are talking about that as much as any other part of our life. It is about what God is calling us to do and moving us to do. As always, we can make our own calls and so often wonder afterward why we didn’t follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and did follow our own shallow human understanding. Lutheran doctrine is not about what we do, what we chose, what we like, it is what God is leading us to do that matters. As Dr Veith points out “Instead of what job shall I choose”, the question becomes “what is God calling me to do?”
The word vocation comes from the Latin vocatio meaning “a call, summon”. There is nothing mystical about it, it’s a common Latin word, even though the sites I looked it up on continually refered to it in some Christian context. OK, but not in terms of a “call” to just ministry as being special, being mystical. If that is the context, it is acknowledging that no matter what the call, butcher, baker, Indian chief, that we should recognize our calling is from God. We like to think of what we “chose”, but, and this is the point of this group, God is interested in everything in our lives, in this case, what career He has chosen for you. So being called to any vocation should be in terms of what God is calling you to.
As an, essentially, third career person, I can say, without reservation, that I’ve felt the hand of God in all my “careers”. I went into the Coast Guard Reserve at 17, right out of high school, in what was a set of circumstances. The same with the day job. I really wouldn’t have chosen either one, it’s not what I was going to college for, but with the benefit of almost forty years hindsight, it’s clear that God was guiding these actions. How I became a Christian and then went into ministry is such another “set of circumstances”, that I can clearly see the hand of God.
I’m sure we can all agree that a lot of time we go into a career/vocation because we will make more money, or it’s what our parents or spouse wants, happens to be the thing that’s right at hand, on and on. I certainly spent a lot of time in prayer, study, meditation and journaling about going into the ministry.. I wasn’t a Christian when I was guided into my first vocations, but as I said, looking back God had to be moving in my life, I’m just not that smart.
Dr Veith writes, vocation isn’t always 9-5 50 weeks a year, you can be called to different things, for example in service to your church. One thing that always bugged me, just because I worked and was trained in finance, didn’t mean I was locked into being a bookkeeper/treasurer of church. Yes, that position usually does need a particular background/training, so yes, someone has to step up, but following the leading of a passion is important too, something that God is moving you into; small group leader, assisting in worship, music, programs, etc.
Speaking as one who has done it, be open to God’s leading n the things you might think are non-negotiable. Fifteen years ago I would never have imagined picking up, moving to St Louis to study for a Masters of Divinity degree and then proceeding to York, Pa. Maybe God’s moving you somewhere you would have never imagined. It’s not something that’s necessarily easy (believe me seminary was a challenge, in a lot of respects), being called to an aging, inner city church is a continuous big push, but it is clear that God has me where He wants me. By my own leading, I can’t imagine that I would be where I am, or where I’ve been.
The Take Away is this, you may be feeling an urging from the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t have to be toward the church, going to some far off land as a missionary, struggling to survive in a new life style. God certainly calls people to vocations where they do make a lot of money and have influence. Look at Daniel and Joseph for example. Jesus says “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48 ESV) Watch what you wish for, you might get it. Often we are put in positions of reward and power in order to benefit the church or others in our lives. Whether that “given” is talent as a pastor, or Bill Gates, or an athlete or whatever, how does God want you to fill a position of great responsibility in the context of your relationship with Him?
Do some homework, sit down and really do some prayer. You may well be affirmed that you are where God wants you to be. If so, that’s great, it’s good to be affirmed that way. But in addition to your main vocation, where else is He calling you to? Maybe He is calling you to another vocation, how does your moving to something else glorify God?
What is God really putting on your heart? Where is He guiding you to? Sit down and do some journaling, pray and talk with your spouse, children, any other “stakeholder” in you life. It really helps me to put pen to paper and let the Holy Spirit guide my thoughts. In the words of Billy Joel I’m not suggesting “sold the house, bought a ticket to the west coast, now he’s doing standup in L.A.”, but on the other hand, don’t keep brushing off the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us He calls us to life and life more abundant. He’s going to make the best choice and we should all let Him.