Friday, December 17, 2010

Profession and/or Calling

In a recent blog post, John Holzmann challenges the frequent connection between job and calling. I thought this was really helpful. While I've been blessed to do work that aligns closely with my sense of calling, I know many more people whose real vocation is something they pursue after hours. Here's what John says:
Traditionally, it has been understood that whatever one's "job" or "business" or "profession," that is one's vocation. And what one does by way of pure pleasure, is a hobby or avocation -- literally, a non-calling.

I don't want to go too far into these matters, but it seems to me that one might pursue a "job" or "business" or "profession" not by way calling or vocation, but simply as a means to an end, a means by which one is enabled to pursue other, "higher" goals -- either, simply, to "stay alive," "keep body and soul together" (because one can't find other work to do) or, perhaps -- as is the case with many missionaries in limited-access circumstances -- as a means by which to gain legal access to the area in which one actually senses he or she is called to minister.

"Calling," it seems to me -- vocation -- is something more akin to a compulsion, a "necessity laid upon" a man or woman to do something of great worth whether he or she feels a lot of pleasure from the activity or not, whether the activity is easy to do or hard, requires great courage or, almost, nary a second thought.

Whether one is engaged in one's calling or, simply, a "job" or "profession," I believe it is still incumbent upon us to do our work "with all our heart, soul, mind and strength" and "as unto the Lord." But I sense there is -- and, rightly, we ought to recognize a distinction between vocation (or "calling") and job.

>> John's Excursus on Calling is part of a longer post.
See also my post Work and Rest in Heaven (May 18, 2010).


Paul Merrill said...

I put this as a comment on John's blog. Maybe it would be helpful for it to be here too...

Not everyone is blessed to have their calling mesh with their job. And that sync is not possible for a whole life for everyone.

There is a large strain of thought out there these days that says we need to follow our dreams. That's an ideal - but is not possible for everyone.

Marti said...

Thanks, Paul - very true.

It does take pressure off, to think: just because I have a calling doesn't mean I need to find a job in the area of my calling or that I can't pursue my calling some other way. It might even work better for both to have a "job" outside that calling. Exploring one's dreams and passions may provide a lot of clues about what a satisfying job might be, but there will always be other factors.

I don't have any hard data on this but I can think of lots of athletes, writers, musicians, and artists who are only able to pursue those callings because of their day job or their spouse's job. Few are those who can make a living doing what they love, even for a season.