Almost twenty-two years ago, I packed up my favorite coffee mug, my personal files, and a few samples of my work, and walked away from my career in human resources. Four babies in eight years, homeschooling, ministry, and a huge vegetable garden each year have hardly left time for me to look in the rear view mirror, and I am still at least five years away from an empty nest. However, Your Vocational Credo by Deborah Koehn Loyd takes me where I didn’t bother to go the first time I chose a career. Deborah opens my eyes to the importance of thinking in terms of vocation:
“a creative significant work expressed with deep joy as an offering of love to God, self and others that meets the needs of the world in a significant way.”
Mothering has been that offering of love — truly a vocation for me — made significant by the meaning which God brings to faithfulness in the unseen, mundane duties of life.
But what about the next chapter?
Deborah provides numerous lists of excellent questions to consider in discovering ones vocation, and it is most helpful at the beginning to tease out the different shades of meaning among terms that we use interchangeably: vocation, calling, work, job, career. She goes on to debunk four myths about vocation. My personal Achilles heel is this: “People are called to serve wherever they can find something to do.” Yes, my soul . . . that is a myth.
It seems counterintuitive, but Deborah has argued effectively that ones deepest and earliest pain sets the trajectory for ones vocation. It follows this progression: If pain is allowed to teach us, it becomes productive, leading to meaning. This meaning “underlays the development of passion. Passion that is focused and practically lived out for the benefit of others is called a vocation.”
If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time, so Deborah wisely advises that we take time to think through and write down a statement of the beliefs or aims that guide our choice of vocation; i.e. a vocational credo. Begin by formulating a description of what you do: “I am on this earth to ________________”; or “My passion is _____________.” For example, a worship leader is a “curator who brings human beings face to face with the God of the universe.” A cab driver’s passion is “facilitating moments of hospitality and warmth while helping people get where they need to go.”
It helps to begin with an active verb such as establishing, solving, teaching, facilitating, or creating. Then, considering that first pain, a favorite quote or book that encompasses your most important values, and the dreams you have of how to heal the world, let this vocational triangle lead you in writing your own credo.
To keep her readers from getting de-railed, Deborah has identified some extremely helpful areas of caution:
- Toxic skills — Those areas in which we can do well and even function with a certain degree of skill, but that bring us no joy. Obviously, everyone has to do things that they don’t enjoy sometimes, but a skill becomes toxic when it oversteps its bounds and stands in the way of an individual doing what she loves to do.
- Fear of failure — Living ones way into a vocation demands trial and error, and, therefore risk of failure. Thomas Edison did not become famous for inventing ten thousand ways NOT to make a lightbulb, but all that error was a necessary step in finding the one way that actually worked.
- Vocational preferences — Your Vocational Credo includes a survey for identifying the most satisfying means of living out one’s vocation. It is based on ten vocational preferences and incorporates core motivations and possible pathways for fulfillment. For example, I think my main preference is Communicator, which means that my core motivation is “to make the world a better place by learning, teaching, showing or demonstrating in order to bring new thoughts or experiences to others.” Possible pathways of exercising that would be educator, writer, life coach, artist, crafts-person, designer, musician, songwriter, or comedian. They all sound fun!
The challenge after having found and stated ones vocation is, in Gandhi’s words, to “be the change you want to see.” This happens through investing in others, particularly in the next generation. As a Gram-in-training, I have been reflecting on this, for I believe that my next new task in mothering will be the transition into new ways of building into my families’ lives and the lives of others. Frederick Buechner has identified this succinctly and well:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
This is the nature of our generous God. We have the privilege of making an impact on the world, and we do it with joy, knowing that we are serving the good of others and that, in doing so, we bring Him maximum glory.
This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of Intervarsity Press, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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