By David Williamson.
This is the first of a series.
Interesting connection today: I was reading the beginning verses of Ephesians 4 and the word “called” stood out. Perhaps this is because I am reading Make Your Job a Calling by Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy. It got me looking back on my career as a pastor, my struggles with whether I had truly found God’s calling, and what I’m doing with myself now that I’m retired.
Theologically, spiritually, we are called in the most basic or foundational sense to Christ, and to an active relationship with God in Christ. As a pastor, I have often thought – and been told – that my calling was to be a pastor. I have since expanded my view of calling to follow that of the New Testament, to be more inclusive – indeed, to be all-inclusive.
My life, and each or our lives as followers of Jesus, is a response to God’s call to be his followers, whatever our occupational identities. As a Christian, I have been summoned to follow Jesus into all the experiences of everyday life. I have heard the call and am learning to follow. And I am also very aware that people are eager to find and follow their own call. In their ordinary lives, they report feeling happier and more fulfilled if they identify their work as a “calling.” Dik and Duffy’s book affirms this theology and reports research data that confirming these observations.
In my own life, I have wrestled with the concept of calling. While I have been certain about answering my personal “call to Christ,” I wondered if I had found my “calling” in a more complete way. Is my pastoral career an appropriate response to God’s call in my life? Too often, Christians have used the world “call” to refer exclusively to pastoral ministry and other religious occupational roles. While I never bought into that idea theologically, it has gnawed at me personally and professionally.
Make Your Job a Calling sets the vocational choice into a broader and more hopeful context. The writers suggest the summons or initiative of a “caller.” They do not at first connect this with Jesus, but they begin by suggesting that the caller calls us with a transcendent summons, originating beyond our immediate experiences, to contribute to the common good and be other-oriented. The book then becomes much more focused on traditional Christian understanding as it proceeds. It is an invitation for all to see and do their ordinary work as a response to this call.
For me the book is very energizing and useful. I was able to see ways this topic has been operative in my own vocational path. Since I retired, I have not been beholden to specific job tasks or responsibilities. But I have not been feeling “called” to retirement or to a lack of productive work.
My father at this point in his life, having been a metallurgist and factory superintendent, began a new “career” as a wood carver of exceptional skill and passion. I and my family are the proud beneficiaries of that “calling” and my dad’s response.
But I was feeling too free. I had basically nothing but myself and my relationship with God to be responsive to – and responsible to. We were made for connection, collaboration and community.
Along the way, I realized that I was (and am) very energized by the idea of faith and work, and more broadly faith and everyday life experiences. With some encouragement, I started to write about useful or helpful connections. I realized that this connection energized me, and might indeed at this stage of my life be my calling. I sense that I have rediscovered my primary calling to Christ, as I have felt energized by the process of conceptualizing and writing.
Still pondering what to do with this new, energizing mood, I opened the pre-arranged biblical text to Ephesians 4. That day’s encouragement/admonishment was to “lead a life worthy of the calling.” The same topic! Coincidence – or “God’s incidence”!
So here I am beginning this journey of being at least faithful (I don’t know about “worthy”) to this, my current “calling.” I intend to use this gift, given out of love, for love, and this venue for the common good. That energizes me on a beautiful, springlike June day as I write this (it will be fall by the time it sees publication).
And as I write those words, I realize they suggest that callings in the more secondary sense can be temporary, or at least replaced by a more current and fresh calling. Only the primary calling to Christ abides always. Indeed, there are a variety of callings, gifts, professions and missions, but one purpose, one caller who has the big picture and sees – and orchestrates – for his purpose. May I respond to and follow my calling: to live in and live for love.
Toucan Tuck. Swedish for Thanks!!!
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