Do You Hear What I Hear?
No, this is not a Christmas-themed reflection. Although, be truthful, didn’t the thought of the need of a sweater or extra blanket or curling up near a blazing fire bring you a wee bit of relief from our record summer heat? Me neither.
This is, instead, a message about vocation. As we near Labor Day, I thought I might share a few thoughts on the calling of each of us. In fact, the word vocation is Latin meaning “a call or summons.” It is, according to Wikipedia, “an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified.” Which of these definitions best fits you?
A few years ago when I volunteered with Junior Achievement, one of the activities I did with my seventh graders was a vocational grid. On one axis was how much you liked or disliked an activity and on the other axis was whether or not you were good at the activity. I then listed a number of items and asked them to place it on their personal grid. We went through school subjects like math, reading, language arts, spelling, then on to sports, dance, listening, helping others, and so on. I asked them to look at the items in the portion of their map that showed what they like and what they are good at and think about occupations that use those skills.
I have since added how much it pays and can you survive on that income to the analysis so that they make their choices understanding the costs and benefits of various vocations.
In Parker Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak, he emphasizes the importance of listening to your inner calling, of finding your true self, of being the person God made you to be, rather than what the world tells you to be. He observes:
True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.’
Buechner’s definition start with the self and moves toward the needs of the world: it begins, wisely, where vocation begins – not in what the world needs (which is everything), but in the nature of the human self, in what brings the self joy, the deep joy of knowing that we are here on earth to be the gifts that God created.
I remember attending a class on Spiritual Gifts that Rod Houston led a few years ago and the relief that I felt when he said that it’s okay to say no to a request that you know will not bring you joy. I always thought that it would be a way to show God obedience if I did something for the church that I really didn’t like. Wouldn’t that please God?
Perhaps not. The key is to identify the people in our midst who have that particular gift and encourage them to use it in service. We aren’t all called to teach church school, or sing in the choir, or chaperone the youth or bake cookies for memorial services. But we are all given some gift. We need to recognize those gifts in ourselves and help others see the gifts they have. This is the strength of a large diverse congregation, one blessed with a multitude of gifts. Don’t know your gifts? Ask a friend. Don’t know how to use your gifts in service to the church? Contact a pastor or the church office.
Listen for your inner calling and answer God’s call to serve. Where does your deep gladness meet the world’s deep need?