Vocational Calling as a Lifelong Journey

May 23, 2017

In the movie City Slickers, Mitch (played by Billy Crystal) tries to find his way through a midlife crisis and discover the meaning of life by going on a cattle roundup. Curly (Jack Palance), the gruff trail boss, tells Mitch that the secret of life is just one thing. When Mitch asks him to reveal what that one thing is, Curly tells him he’ll have to figure that out for himself.

People have expressed to us their desire to find that one thing they are called to do. As we talk with them, we sometimes find that they are making particular assumptions about their vocational calling. Their operational belief is that there is one thing (usually meaning a specific job or career path) out there somewhere (at a particular company) for them to find. Once they have found that one thing out there somewhere, they believe they will then be set for life and not have to deal anymore with troublesome questions about what to do with their lives. We find that a need for security and fear of change typically underlie these beliefs.

The problem with this perspective is that it does not fit with either the biblical record or the real world of work in the twenty-first century. God’s people have usually found themselves doing a series of things in their lives. For example, the New Testament shows us that even though Paul’s job title of “apostle” didn’t change, he found himself doing things and going places he could not have imagined or anticipated on his own. This seems to be a rather typical pattern when God is actively involved in a person’s life.

In addition, change is the hallmark of today’s workplace. Few people will work for the same company their entire lives. Mergers, closures, and organizational retooling in response to the competition and rapid-fire change in our world today ensure that most people will hold several jobs during their working years, either by choice or necessity. Even people who have reached vocational integration and are paid for being themselves have to reorient and reposition themselves at various points in their lives.

Living your vocational calling is a journey. As you grow and mature, God can use you in new and more significant ways. Your journey may take you through the levels of vocational fit one step at a time, such as progressing from just a job to OK work to enjoyable work. As you continue on your journey, investing the time and energy needed and being willing to risk, you can move up the levels of vocational fit.

When you are progressing in using your gifts to make a contribution in this world–even if you have only moved thus far from just a job to OK work–you are living your vocational calling. Although it is possible to do so, most people don’t move from just a job to vocational integration in just one job change. Most of us experience a series of transitions in our lives, but each step is an important part of the process of living our calling. Our vocational calling is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Your vocational calling therefore is not about finding and doing one thing; rather it is doing many thing for God, the Audience of One.

Duane’s story illustrates how a vocational calling unfolds over the years. He was working at a car rental agency when he came to us for career counseling. Although he had received several promotions and was excelling in his work, he felt what he was doing lacked sufficient meaning.

His purpose in doing career planning was to figure out where he should be investing his abilities to be the best possible steward of his gifts. A natural visionary, he loved using his creativity, marketing, and networking skills to grow an organization and make a difference in people’s lives. God has increasingly used him over the years because Duane and his wife, Tricia, have been willing to take risks, persevere, grow and be obedient to what they believed God was calling them to do.

His work has included directing a nonprofit organization that taught entrepreneurship to low-income young people, founding a nationwide youth entrepreneurship company, writing a values-based curriculum about Christian youth entrepreneurship, cofounding and directing the northern California chapter of an organization that helped senior business executives make a difference in the lives of others, and helping organizations grow and fulfill their missions more effectively.

We asked him what God has taught him thus far in his life about his vocational calling. Duane responded, “He is teaching me to continue to be purposeful in how I employ my ‘design,’ and not to be afraid to leave an area where I am not using the gifts, skills, talents, and passions he has given me, but rather to pursue leveraging those gifts, skills, talents, and passions for his kingdom! I have learned that when I do take a step of faith and go in the direction where I think I can best be used, God meets me there and multiplies my ‘loaves and fishes’ in ways I could never imagine.”

On the journey of living your vocational calling, you will discover the truth in this equation: You + God’s power = Enough. You are enough because God has designed you perfectly to fulfill you intended purpose.1 You are enough because God will work through you with his limitless power.2 You are enough because he loves you and can transform you.3

You are called to be you, and he who calls you is at work within you. You can be empowered to be yourself today; you can become the you God has always intended you to be. The truth is that “God can do anything–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”4

1. Ephesians 2:10.
2. Matthew 19:26.
3. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
4. Ephesians 3:20 (The Message).

Written by Kevin & Kay Marie Brennfleck. Excerpted from Live Your Calling, published by Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.   Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.