Monday, March 17, 2014

Calling and Vocation

Despite the vast changes in work and society, we continue to ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  We plant in children at an early age that their work, their job, will be an important part of their identity.  Perhaps we would serve them better if we asked the question, “What will you become?”

There seems to be renewed interest among Baptist Christians in the concepts of vocation and calling.  The words are used in different ways in various contexts.  Although we tend to think about only those who work with the sacred as having a “calling” and those who work in the secular world as having a “vocation,” this is not true in all Christian traditions and is probably poor theology.

Whether we see what we do as a vocation or a calling, they are intertwined.  The message is the same:  We serve God by responding to the prompting of God to do that for which we are best equipped. Our vocation or calling should be an expression of what God has designed each of us to be and become.

My own experience of calling to a ministry vocation slowly emerged as an inner sense of “rightness” and an outer affirmation of other voices came into alignment.  I did not hear that “still small voice,” but I became gradually aware of my own gifts and competencies and, almost hungrily, grasped any word of encouragement or affirmation I received from mentors or peers about my gifts for ministry.  The truth here (in my experience anyway) is that the call to vocational ministry does not happen in a vacuum.  It results from the intersection between one’s growing understanding of his or her God-given gifts and one’s involvement in a community of a faith.

In subsequent years, I have learned that this calling to a vocation is not a static experience.  As we go trough life and encounter new experiences, learning, and opportunities, our sense of calling continues to evolve.  Ernesto Carnedal wrote,

"God’s call, vocation, is twofold. God calls us saying, ‘Come, follow me.’ We arrive and then we must follow. We find but must go on seeking. God’s call is a never-ending call, to the unknown, to adventure, to follow him in the night, in solitude. It is a call incessantly to go further, and further. For it is not static but dynamic (as creation also is dynamic) and reaching him means going on and on. God’s call is like the call to become an explorer; it is an invitation to adventure.”

No matter what age we may be, we can continue to ask the question, “What will you become?”

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