By: Charmaine Fong
Vocation: Some thought-starters
- Unlike what society believes, work is a good thing
- God’s calling is more important than our personal choices.
“What on Earth is God Doing?”
Our Creator’s work is seen from two perspectives: the creative and the redemptive.
By calling upon us, we are not tasked with creation and/or redemption directly.
Rather, we are invited to be God’s co-reconcilers; humans serve as agents of God’s work.
This can be seen in the roles of a farmer and a doctor – a farmer’s role is not to grow crops; but to farm (i.e. to prepare the land and sow the seeds) while God’s role is to grow the crops from seed to maturation. In another instance, a doctor is not a healer; God is the healer and does so via the agency of the surgeon/physician.
“Who Am I?”
We are created as unique reflections of an image of God and should seek to understand our self-identity. Subsequently, we should seek to understand the relationship of our identities to the assignment of our job, as this process is tied to our identity rather than being arbitrary.
We should also see for the true source of joy and passion which drive our identities – desires of our hearts, or “deep longings in our heart”, as Brian Mahan (author of Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose) terms it. Peter Block (author of The Answer to How is Yes) also poses the pertinent question of what matters to us (as opposed to what we should do or what we ought to do) to aid with our prioritizing, as we have a scarcity of time to carry out our good work.
Alternatively, we could reflect on the causes of unhappiness or anger in our lives to determine our purpose – Gordon clarified that this was not to be mistaken for the trivial sources of anger (e.g. bad traffic) but motivations about the unjustified that we seek to set right in our vocation.
Besides embracing our strengths, we are also asked to accept our limitations graciously as doing so would allow us to have opportunities to create dependency- on the Lord and others as our vocation is fulfilled in interdependence with others.
Talent and ability are means to fulfil, and not ways for us to determine or discern vocation.
“What Are my Circumstances?”
Vocation is assigned in a non-arbitrary manner and we are called upon by the Lord to do work in this time, in this world and within the circumstances of this life.
Through the understanding and acceptance of our circumstances, we graciously accept that things are what they are; instead of being engaged in wishful thinking, we seek hopeful realism which aid us in identifying opportunities and constraints.
No situation is hopeless in God’s grace! In moments of darkness, we should ask humbly for God’s grace and be led by the Spirit for greater is the one who is in you than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
In all vocations, we are called to bear the cross and invited to be joint heirs with Christ. Often, the way of the cross includes the way of suffering, failure, disappointment and sacrifice.
A friend of Gordon’s was about to resign from a position which he was very well-suited in – he had all the necessary skills and traits and Gordon was trying hard to convince him to stay. His response?
“It is not my cross to bear.”
We need to reject self-constructed lives and look towards leading Spirit-animated lives instead. This means that we have a rich dependence on God and lean into God and acknowledge that we are in over our heads.
“Where Am I in the Journey of an Adult Life?”
Depending on the phase of life we are in, we experience different ways of discernment.
Sources of wisdom include adult development theorists and other authors such as, Eric Erikson, James Fowler and Daniel Levinson.
- From adolescence to adulthood (Age: 12/16/? – 34): differentiation
Young adults must realise that the love of and loyalty to God is greater than that to our parents.
(Matthew 10:37 – If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine)
2. The middle years (Age: 35 – 59): knowing our deep necessity, embracing strengths and accepting limits
Knowing our necessity: by this age, we should be aware of what matters to us / what angers us, as addressed before.
Embracing our strengths and accepting our limits are just as important: recognize that it is important to accept our capacities as they provide us with opportunities to be dependent (on God and others).
3. The senior years: the potential of wisdom and blessing
Wisdom: we inherited knowledge from the generations before us and are only truly older when we grow wiser. Seniors are tasked with passing on the knowledge to the next generation.
Blessing: we are to affirm, delight in and recognize without qualification or critique, not to judge but we are to bless freely. As grandparents, leave the role of parenting to the parents – just bless freely!
4. The senior-senior years
Retirement: a false societal construct and why we are in a greater position to do work
More than mere points of leisure, we might be able to do good work as we are no longer linked to office and are leaving the levers of power behind.
This puts us in a position of greater influence without judgement.
Hence, when the time comes for the succession of the next generation, leave well, leave generously and bless the next generation.
(Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.)
- The greatest threat to the fulfilment of vocation is not external, but internal: fear
Do you have the courage to do what you are being called to do?
Look at the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 – are we like Martha; anxious, fretful, fearful and worried by many things? Or are we like Mary; patiently and faithfully sitting at Jesus’ feet , focused on listening to His Word?
- At least 3 conversation partners are needed in our fulfilment of vocation:
- 1 older person – a mentor, guide, friend, counsellor (A bless-er, not critic) of the same gender (an older woman is in a better position to bless a younger woman than an older gentleman, vice versa).
- A fellow pilgrim – a peer in the same stage and vocation who wrestles with the same struggles as you do; vocation is fulfilled in interdependence with others!
- A bless-er and source of encouragement from another walk of life or line of work