This week we turn to the question: How do I find my vocation?
We have waited awhile to address this question because if we don’t take a deeper look at our assumptions about vocation, we will probably miss a lot as we search for the answer.
As I sat down to write this post, I realized we have already begun to make progress on answering the question. Hopefully, by now you know that finding your vocation does not mean you have to do only “spiritual work” and that there are a wide range of things you could do as a vocation, whether you get paid for them or not. I also hope you know that “finding your vocation” may simply be seeing the ways God is present in your current work.
But let’s look a little deeper at the question: How do I find my vocation?
What I often find is that when someone asks this question, there are other questions that go with it. Questions like these: How do I know God’s will for my life? How do I do work which glorifies God?
I totally understand these questions. I have asked and continue to ask them. But I think we might need to re-think how we approach these questions.
One of the fundamental assumptions driving questions of God’s will and glorifying God is that God wants something from us. I want to know God’s will because if I miss it, I will make God mad. I want to glorify God in what I do because if I don’t…well, God’s mad again.
Our friend Sarah Bessey wrote an amazing post about this. God doesn’t want things from you. God wants things for you. And what God wants for you makes a big difference when trying to discover our vocation.
So what does God want for us? What is God’s will for you?
Irenaeus put it this way, and it is one of my favorite quotes: The glory of God is (hu)man(s) fully alive.
Human beings are created to reflect God. We carry the image of God, and so each of us shows glimpses of what God is like. We “glorify God” when we reflect God. And we reflect God when we are most fully alive and human. Because when we live into who we were built to be, it reflects the One who made us.
As Sarah says in her post, and as we have continued to say, vocation is something we do with God, rather than for God. We aren’t simply hoping we don’t mess the vocation thing up. And we have a lot more agency here than we give ourselves credit. God has given us unique talents, skills, desires, and personality but we have an amazing amount of ability to shape the path we take. So we partner with God to discover more about who we truly are, and that helps us discover our vocation.
If God wants things for us rather than from us, we have a great deal of freedom to choose our vocation. Partnerships require actions on both parties. We partner with God because part of our vocation comes from the desires and skills God has given us and part of it comes from our own choices and actions.
Especially when I talk to people college-age people, I often hear them say: I just wish God would tell me what to do.
God want us to look at our talents, skills, personality, experiences, the things that make us mad, our family, our location, our desires, interests, and passions, and make decisions that help us and those around us be more fully human.
If we stop assuming God is demanding something from us and genuinely desires for us to be fully human, it changes the nature of the questions we are asking about our vocation.
We can begin to ask questions about who we are, what we enjoy doing, where our passions and desires lie. We can look at the different themes that run throughout our lives. We can ask what gets us really upset and frustrated.
We can also ask questions about the places we already are. Rather than assuming vocation is somewhere else, we can actually choose to find meaning and purpose in what we are doing now. Maybe you feel guilty for enjoying what you do because it is not spiritual enough. Maybe you see certain things where you are that should be more just and equitable, or just flat-out need to be better. The ability to choose may mean we choose to stay right where we are.
One warning about God giving us the ability to choose: It can be hard work. It is much easier to passively wait for our vocation to float down from the sky.
It requires a lot of self-reflection and conversation about who we really are. We have to be able to see what God has given us and the paths we have traveled. We have to be able to see where we currently are and envision where we want to be. We need wisdom from those who know us best.
It requires effort on our part to move in the direction of our vocation. We may need to learn a new skill, we may have to change some habits or even a career path. We may have to realize we are moving in a direction which isn’t giving us life. We may need to go back to school or pick up an old hobby or do any number of things which are new and can be intimidating. Our vocation may require sacrifice and may not always feel sexy.
But it is worth it.
When we are doing something well, something that gives us life, something that provides a little bit of hope in the world, something gives us that excited feeling of knowing this is what we are meant to do, we are reflecting the God who made us by being fully alive and receiving what God wants for us.
And that glorifies God.