This article was originally published in the Lutheran Ambassador, April 2008.
In The Purpose Driven Life, author Rick Warren poses a very important question: “What on earth am I here for?” Most of us readily acknowledge that pastors, missionaries, evangelists and the like have a God-given calling. But what about the rest of us? Aren’t we called by God as well?
I believe that we are. In the book of Ephesians we read that:
“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The good works we were made by God to do could be considered our personal vocation or calling.
Vocation is a topic that has been much written about and discussed in Christian circles. Before the Reformation only those in religious orders were seen as having a vocation. Martin Luther and other reformers extended to concept to secular occupations and activities as well. Luther insisted that the farmer, the cobbler, the milkmaid or the parent had a religious calling as significant as that of a priest or nun.
Vocation has been defined in many ways. Luther send that in your calling you must “lend yourself as a means and a mask to God.” Frederick Buechner, Christian chaplain and author describes it as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Thomas Kelly, a Quaker, writes that it is “God’s burdened heart particularizing His burdens in us.” And Erik Rees, a minister at Saddleback church calls it, “your serving sweet spot.” One vocation is very clear: its purpose is service to others. It has everything to do with Christ’s command to love our neighbor and little to do with worldly accomplishments or success.
Although you cannot choose your vocation (it seems to choose you), there are clues for recognizing it. You will most likely find it in your own backyard. Look for your vocation in your career or job, your family, among your acquaintances or fellow church members. You will have an aptitude for it. Others will often commend you for it. It will arouse your passions. It will energize you. It may be challenging, but never onerous, for as Jesus says,
“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:30
In accomplishing it you will feel God’s pleasure, a sense of fulfillment that means you are being true to what God made you to be. Knowing your vocation helps you to distinguish between the things you can and should do and those that are best left to others.
Your vocation may evolve over time even if it involves the same set of skills and gifts. For example, I see my vocation as encouraging others. When my children were young, I wrote and directed our congregation’s Vacation Bible School programs; later I led small groups and retreats; and now I find myself writing for the Lutheran Ambassador (and more recently this blog). One author says your vocation “keeps making more of you.” Discover and follow your vocation. It will lead you into a continuing adventure with God!
For more on the topic of vocation, see these posts: