Vocation: I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means
Today let’s talk about the nature of call.
When people use the word Vocation, you can practically hear the capital “V.”
There is an all-too-persistent notion in the church the vocation is strictly the realm of the ordained clergy.
That is not true! Why do people think that?
For one thing, it’s the legacy of a clericalism that created and reinforced a false specialness in the clergy and placed them above lay people.
I also suspect that for some lay folks, denying they have vocation can be a helpful way to escape discerning it.
When we do think about vocation as applying to all people, another trap we fall into is elevating it into some sweeping destiny that encompasses one’s whole life.
It’s a similar phenomenon to the One True Love™ school of thought in which there is One Perfect Person for you who will Make All Your Dreams Come True and you will live Happily Ever After. (This is a damaging and limiting paradigm for so many reasons, but that’s another sermon.)
So when we elevate vocation into a Sweeping Destiny of answering God’s call in a noble, heroic, world-saving way, a task that will remain constant and unchanging for an entire lifetime, we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of problems.
First of all, it ignores the potential for vocation to change and evolve over time.
What you are called to do at eighteen may not be the same thing you’re called to do at eighty.
In fact, in the vast majority of cases, it probably shouldn’t be or we need to start asking if you have really opened yourself up to growth over the last six decades.
Next, the Sweeping Destiny model of vocation puts a heck of a lot of pressure on the individual to get it right.
You’d better make sure you don’t have a headache or aren’t too caught up in speculating on your favorite TV show’s plot on the day you commit to your Vocation.
What if you get it wrong? What if you choose the wrong path? Will the Earth crash into the sun?
And not only do you have to choose rightly, you have to act perfectly in the execution of the vocation. Because if you fail at doing it, maybe you failed in discerning it, and again, we’re back at the Earth crashing into the sun.
The consistent problem with this approach to vocation is that it takes us further from freedom and deeper into the prison of our need for security, control, and approval.
The Sweeping Destiny/One True Love approach to vocation can only create people—lay or ordained—ethically trapped on a path that often devolves into a job with tasks.
That does not create transformed people.
In fact, it often creates burned-out, bitter people who are phoning it in at whatever “vocation” seemed so noble and beautiful five or ten or fifty years ago.
(That doesn’t mean that every minute of living out vocation is sunshine and roses or it isn’t real. But when duty devolves into dread, something is wrong.)
So what can we say definitively about vocation? Continue reading