It’s VOCATION WEEK at Memoirs of Algeisha. No, the vacationwas yesterday, the remainder of the week we will focus on vocation.
In honor of the perfectly punctual quarter-life crisis that has hit me square in the nose, this week I will delve into the topics of vocation, calling, career, faith, trust, and obedience. I will be sharing about my upcoming transition to what I hope will entail living the life of a bohemian bum in Guatemala, my struggle to hear and heed God’s voice in my life, and how I believe ministering to women with eating disorders and serving the rural poor are two sides to the same calling.
If you don’t happen to find yourself in your tumultuous twenties, I hope you can still relate to the search for meaning, purpose, and passion in our careers, homes, families, and friendships.
And don’t worry, I’ve already found some wonderful T.S. Eliot and body image/identity tie ins.
First up, I’ll share a little background on how I’ve viewed vocation, calling, and careers in my own post-college life.
Allocating Resources or Surrendering Lives?
Straight out of college I made a deal with myself: I would take whatever job allowed me to use my skills to do the greatest good for the poorest people.
For four years, that meant working as a grant writer for international development organization, Plant With Purpose.
When God started calling me away from Plant With Purpose, my pride stepped in. I told God He was crazy. There was no way He could use me outside of Plant With Purpose to do as much good for the poor. By my social justice calculations, it just didn’t add up.
In a fascinating New York Times op/ed piece, David Brooks attributes this kind of thinking to a “vocabulary of entrepreneurialism.”
He writes, “Many people today find it easy to use the vocabulary of entrepreneurialism, whether they are in business or social entrepreneurs. This is a utilitarian vocabulary. How can I serve the greatest number? How can I most productively apply my talents to the problems of the world? It’s about resource allocation.”
For better or worse, those exact questions have formed the foundation of my life planning, dreaming, and scheming for the past several years.
I used to think I was wise, strategic, a conscientious compassionate.
But these last few months, God’s been teaching me a new litmus test for my life and my work. And the question is simply this: Am I moving in the Spirit? Am I going where God is leading?
I took my job at Plant With Purpose before I started praying, before I believed the Holy Spirit could speak, before I ever paid attention to God’s leading.
In the last four years, my heart has changed, my prayer life has changed, my whole way of living has changed. So why am I still operating under the utilitarian mentality when it comes to vocation?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to think about impact, to weigh the benefits and consequences of our actions, and to make strategic decisions. I believe we are called to be good stewards of our time and resources, talents and gifts, but who am I to think I know better than God?
In his article, David advocates for an expansion of the discussion around careers, vocation, and community service. David argues that, “People are less good at using the vocabulary of moral evaluation, which is less about what sort of career path you choose than what sort of person you are.”
And this sort of person has less to do with what we do in the 9 to 5 than how we orient our lives. David writes, “It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck.”
God has challenged me to give up my identity as a grant writer, and take on the identity of a follower of the Spirit. To become what Henri Nouwen describes as a mystic, “a person whose identity is deeply rooted in God’s first love.” (Henri Nouwen, The Discipline of Contemplative Prayer)
God is challenging me to become a person who obeys His leadings even when I’m a skeptical of His ultimate plan. He’s challenging me to follow Him to Guatemala even when my utilitarian conscience tells me that it doesn’t add up.
He’s given me a chance to show what sort of person I am. Do I trust Him when it doesn’t make sense or do I lean on my understanding?
Even though I’ve been given incredible opportunities to work with organizations doing transformational work while I’m in Guatemala, it still doesn’t add up.
Not yet at least.
But I want to be where He wants to use me, whether it’s raising millions of dollars in poverty alleviation, sharing how God’s moving in my life on this blog, or relocating to another country.
As I contemplate vocation, calling, and careers, I want, first and foremost, to surrender even my strategizing to His Spirit. To seek Him first, and, regardless of my occupation, to not be a total schmuck.
What is God calling you to surrender? Can you relate to the utilitarian view of vocation? Also, please check out the full David Brooks article, The Service Patch.