Peer Learning Community on vocation
August 9th, 2006
This week at the peer learning community gathering, we had a discussion about vocation. Here are a few notes from that conversation. The notes were pulled in part from my own experiences over the last year or two and from a book called Courage and Calling by Gordon Smith.
Before we began, I threw out some definitions of vocation. One definition of vocation is our engagement with the world in response to God. Another is an individual’s mission in the word. It was noted after reading these definitions that there is no mention of wages or employment.
We started off talking about the state of work in our society. I used some of Gordon’s categories for the current state of things to get started. You’ll probably find that most or all of them are familiar experiences.
* The economy is changing: We live in a global economy that is dynamic. The expectations are also changing. Think of your father’s view of work and commitment to an employer compared to yours…
* We are experiencing a crisis in confidence: Ask yourself if you are a master of your trade or discipline. Can anyone say they are a master of a discipline and have that affirmed by the community?
* Crisis in focus: Do you sometimes feel overworked and confused? Do you live a busy hectic life?
* A crisis in meaning: Do you struggle finding meaning in work, relationships, or your identity? Also consider the perceived importance of busy people. Do we need to stay busy to feel or look important?
All of us at the gathering were able to identify with some or all of these. For my part, I think a struggle working for a large company was finding meaning. When you are one of ~100K workers, it is hard to grasp where you fit into the larger efforts of the company. As a computer scientist, it is also difficult to wrestle with never feeling like you can master the discipline. There is always more to learn, and it is always changing.
At some point, I would like to spend more time thinking about a theology of work, vocation, and self. Gordon provides some thoughts on this, but we didn’t have time to go into it.
We need to remind ourselves that our vocations are sacred and that our vocation is not our career. It is also important to note that our vocation can exist outside or within our gainful employment (think of someone who fulfills their vocation volunteering). Also note that you can lose your job, but you never lose your vocation.
This brought us to a conversation on where to go from here. Our vocations are an integral part of who we are and who God created us to be. It makes sense then that in order to discern and live into our vocation, we need to come to terms with ourselves. Our vocation will be congruent with who we are. We also noted that our vocations will likely change throughout our lives as experiences, circumstances, and responsibilities shape who we are and our time.
We need to learn to nurture reflection and self-perception and live intentional lives. It is also important that our vocation is discovered and embraced in community. We are part of a collective and not just individuals. Our vocation is individual, but it is discerned and worked out with others who also have a role to play.
After this discussion, we decided upon three actions to take in response to our discussion:
* During the course of the month, make intentional choices towards your true self. Begin to ask the questions about who you are and make decisions based on it.
* Ask for input from someone close to you on your gifts and dreams. What do they think you were made to do?
* Affirm the gifts and dreams in someone else.