Careers as a Vocation?
A. How do we know what God’s call is for us if we are focused on our careers? B. Is it appropriate to focus on that career and then get married/enter religious life later? C. Or maybe the call/vocation IS the career and you could be single?
A. Prayer. And possibly doing your actual work, especially if your career is somehow connected to God (like mine).
B. Sometimes. Just ask someone who wanted to enter a religious community but was told she had too much personal debt. True story. StorIES. Plural.
C. FALSE QUESTION. THEY ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.
Let’s have a heart-to-heart. The above questions, honestly, honey, I find them silly. Now, I know I don’t have a theology degree or official credentials, but I do have some life experiences and an amazing person who’s sort of my unofficial spiritual director (she has the degrees). And she said something that affirms the ideas behind the snarkier draft of this post (which you will never see! thank goodness). But as Auntie Seraphic has counseled me, as one of her many readers, to be more joyful, I am going to write to this topic much more gently than I had intended. Here is what my editor of life said:
“Vocation is not about
what we do, but who we are.”
Who are we? Children of a God who loves us; he gave us the world; and one day he hopes we come back home to him. That’s just one way to phrase the universal call to holiness. Or our “primary vocation.”
What we do on Earth certainly can either lead us to him or away. Sometimes our paths to him are custom-mapped and come with particular graces of sacraments or professed vows: the call to consecrated religious life in particular order/seminary or a call to marriage to a specific person. And yes, what we do for our careers—including mothering or wifing in the home—can certainly help us know God, love him, serve him, and one day be in Heaven with him.
But somewhere along the way we got the idea that discerning our vocation is a top-priority mental and spiritual exercise, and what particular “job” we do as people is how we are to define our lives. And you know what? I get it. I, a Type-A person, haaate uncertainty more than anyone we know. But you know,
“Faith requires uncertainty.”
Think about it: if we discovered the answer to the mystery of God in choices that might not happen until ten years down the road or why we were given a desire but it was left unfulfilled, why would we need faith? We’d be certain about our futures. If we are uncertain about them, but still living and loving and trusting in God—then we’re having faith.
I am starting to believe more and more that God is most happy that we are doing things for His sake, regardless of what they are (job, marriage, sisterhood, etc.). It is us making ourselves unhappy because we think there has to be one right answer or that the grass will be greener in the other vocational yard. But…
“Our very existence is God’s call for us.”
So to ask how we can “hear” God’s call for us while we’re focused on an earthly job at an office, site, or even the home becomes rather silly. Sometimes God communicates big ideas to us in language we readily understand. Sometimes, he’s just communicating: ‘keep doing what you’re doing at that there school/hospital/publishing house.’ If we feel like we’re not hearing him, the issue then isn’t that he’s not speaking our language—no, he always does—it’s that we’ve put proverbial cotton in our ears.
And of course it can be appropriate to focus on a career and enter into a secondary vocation (for that is what marriage and consecrated religious life technically are, subject to our primary vocation). No one should be making broad proclamations or decrees in that regard, because each person’s living out a sacrament or vows is going to be unique to him or her.
Finally, God’s will for you is to be you, his child, in the here and now, knowing him, serving him, loving him, working toward being reunited with him. You could be single and working. Or single and sitting on your mom’s couch watching HGTV. The latter isn’t the best way to live out God’s will, but hey, the economy is awful. God understands. Or, you could be married and have a job. Married without a job and no children. Married with a job and 17 children. Married with no job and children. Taking care of elderly parents solo before entering a religious community. Working a job-job and being a consecrated virgin.
Now, I know (and am guilty of it too), that we can angst a lot about having a desire for one particular call to something to do, but girl, it’s just not happening. Yes, it is true that we or other people can make choices that mean we may not get married or have children or get to enter the religious community. But you know what? That’s not a “missed vocation.” Because why?
God’s will is never thwarted.
Think about it. If we presume humans have the power to alter God’s will for us and his movement in our lives, then we don’t have a very powerful God, do we? Faith, not angst, will help us eventually understand maybe just a fragment of the mystery of God’s beautiful design for our lives.
For now, let us pray for the grace to bear the sacrifices required of our vocation, whatever that may be, and ask for a cheerful heart and soul that rejoices as much as God does, simply because we are his.