Yesterday I shared my thoughts on our joyous duty as humans in a broken world; striving after healing as we carry out the creation mandate given to us as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.
But what the heck does that mean?
If we are reconciling the reality of heaven and the reality of life here on earth, what does that look like for our everyday lives? That’s where the theme for these 31 days, Reconcile, comes into play. I’m going to share my thoughts on a number of topics, not because I think I have the answers but because I have spent the past couple of years mulling this over and want to share what I have learned (and am still learning).
Today we are tackling the topic of vocation.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to define vocation as, “one’s calling.” I’m also going to define the vague term “job” as “what one does to pay the bills.” You can agree or disagree, I just needed to give them definition before diving in.
Perhaps teaching biology is your passion and you get to teach biology everyday to high school freshman. In this instance, your vocation is your job but this is not always so. I’m not going to cite my source (because you have just as much access to Google as I do) but I have heard it said from multiple sources that anywhere from 65-70% of Americans hate their jobs.
There are multiple factors and variables attributing to this number and I am not equipped to lay them all out for you. However I do believe that a big contributing factor to such an unhappy number is the lost vocation. I think it is common to reduce life’s work to that which pays the bills. Please note that paying your bills is a good thing and we are called as stewards to manage and budget this very real part of our lives. This is not to be neglected so we might “follow our dreams.”
AND YET. Our dreams do matter. While they might be secondary to taking care of our families and filling our bellies, I don’t believe they are any less important. In fact I believe they are pivotal to both the reconciliation of heaven and earth and our very humanity.
God has built us each in a unique way so that we might partake in His masterpiece here on earth. Some of us thrive on numbers and statistics while some of us may thrive on running or sculpting. This is not an accident nor is it by chance. This is a very real part of our humanity and while the reality of mortgages and empty gas tanks are our responsibility, this part of ourselves is not to be ignored. In fact it is to be cultivated.
I believe that part of reconciling heaven and earth, part of bringing healing to a broken world, is tapping into your dreams and aspirations and that which makes you come alive. Is is there we find the sweet spot.
“What is the sweet spot?” you might ask. Both Eddie Wadsworth of Life in Grace and Ken Robinson, author of The Element, say it best. Your sweet spot, your vocation, your calling, your purpose here on earth (geez that’s a big statement) can be found when your desires/talents/gifts intersect with people’s needs.
One of my all time favorite examples of this phenomenon can be found in the movie, Stranger than Fiction. Character Ana Pascal attends Harvard Law. During late night study sessions with fellow students, she bakes and serves delicious treats. Everyone looks forward to her creations, the study sessions grow as a result and the law students survive the grueling nights with passing grades. Except for Ana. Ana was spending the study time making her guests feel welcome and keeping their bellies full. She had found her sweet spot (no pun intended) and it was not practicing law. It was loving on others through baked goods. As simple and trite as it might sound in our lofty world, she had found her vocation. Dropping out of law school she opened her own bakery where the doors were always open and people’s days were made better one chocolate chip cookie at a time.
Silly? Seemingly. Trivial? No. Ana tapped into her passions and found where her gift intersected with people’s needs. A fictional character she may be and yet, I can tell you, that the Ana Pascal’s of the real world are not the 70% who hate their job. They too are the tired and hard working but they are also the happy and joyful. They are the 30% finding fulfillment in doing what they love and loving others along the way. They are bringing healing to a broken world through their vocation.
I believe we have completely lost this idea of vocation and in so doing, lost the idea of one’s purpose. Our jobs are merely a way to pay rent and our dreams are impractical, not to be considered. Or, perhaps, those of us in the church are even told that our dreams are frivolous, that our dreams and passions and desires don’t matter on this side of heaven (unless of course it is your desire to preach, teach, or fold chairs). Instead we are encouraged to find a practical job that enables us with the resources and time to pour back into the church. Never is the good of society considered and never are your dreams considered.
But I would call for something better. A bigger and brighter truth. I would call for a vision that sees our dreams and aspirations not as something to be ignored or to be put on hold but something to be considered and cultivated. I would call for a vision that sees our vocation as our purpose here on earth. We need politicians, artists, math teachers, pilots and doctors. We need architects and musicians and writers. We needs moms and dads and cooks and baristas. Why? Because our purpose on earth is to participate in God’s renewing ALL of creation . . . blue whales to blueberry muffins. Remember our joyous duty? To partake in God’s masterpiece here on earth . . . to strive for goodness, truth, and beauty in how we bandaged scraped knees and how we cut coupons . . . in how we build buildings and how we change the oil in a car. . . in setting the Christmas table and in making a good meal.
Some of us need to stick with our everyday jobs, as mundane as they may be, for practicality sake. That is not bad. This is not a challenge to throw caution out the window . . . but this might be a challenge to throw fear out the window and consider how you might pursue your vocation. It might not be an overnight thing, it could take lots of time BUT it is part of your humanity to dig deep and find what makes you come alive, to find your vocation . . . the sweet intersection where your gifts meet the needs of others. This is where the salve for a wounded world lies and where our purpose as image bearers comes to life. Do not neglect your dreams.
Below are some of my favorite resources on this topic . . .
The Life in Grace Podcast (find it here along with her own resources and book recommendations in the show notes)
Ken Robinson’s, The Element