Our Vocation; Our Calling

I returned to college in March of this year. I am enrolled in the psychology degree program at Colorado Christian University online. Finally, I am at the place in my recovery and my life where I can pick  up where I left off in 1985. Luckily, a number of my previous college credits, including some earned in my major, have transferred. I hope to complete my undergraduate degree within the next 2 1/2 years. At that time, I will be properly prepared to enter the field of addictions counseling, and plan on focusing my attention on teens and young adults struggling with substance abuse and mental illness.

One of the books assigned for my first class is Courage & Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential, by Gordon T. Smith (2011). There is a wonderful quote from Frederick Buechber on the inside of the cover. It states, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I can truly relate to this statement.

Smith makes some fantastic points in Chapter 2, “The Meaning of Our Work.” He says that when we think about roles or occupations and good work, we are struck by the public side and often overlook the simple fact that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg; most of the work is done with little affirmation, thanks or praise. These people are diligent in their work and in the private side of their work precisely because they are committed first and foremost to good work.

Further, it is said that the biblical theology of vocation is a renewed appreciation of the full extend of God’s kingdom. All vocations are sacred because God’s kingdom is not merely spiritual. God is establishing His kingdom on the earth as all creation comes under His divine authority. To that end, God calls and enables His children to be His kingdom agents within every sphere of life and society. Each vocation reflects only one means by which God, through word and deed, is accomplishing this. It is important to stress that in all of this we must sustain a distinction between vocation and career. A vocation comes from God, and though it will encompass work in every sector of society, from the home to the marketplace to the church, it remains a fundamentally religious principle.

Smith goes on to say in Chapter 2 that we must recover the original meaning of vocation. We must restore to our communities and to our language an understanding of vocation as calling; as something we recognize both as fundamentally religious and sacred, and as something that enables us, in response to the call of God, to embrace whatever it is that God would have us be and do in the church and the world. Also, we must distinguish between vocation and career. We may be called to particular work that is reflected in a career, an occupation done over an extended period of time in which we express a mastery or capacity for a particular kind of work, but we must not allow a single career or occupation to eclipse our personal identity and sense of vocation. The two must be kept distinct.

The language of vocation is a reminder that our work is given to us by another, by the God who is our Creator. Thus our work is not our “god;” rather, it is given to us as a gift, as something for which we are stewards. In the end, it does not define us, however important it is to us and to God. We are not workers; we are, rather, children of God who are called to work. Our work is never the primary expression of our identity, and through regular rest (sabbath), we establish our identity in God and in his love, acceptance and grace toward us. We violate the meaning of work when all we do is work, when we lose a rhythm and routine of both work and play, work and prayer, work and rest.

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