At Valparaiso University, where I earned my undergraduate degree, we talked a lot about vocation.
The motto of the university, “In Thy Light, We See Light”, was taken from Psalm 36:9 and shaped much of this discussion. We talked about what it meant to be called to a particular line of work and how we could lead lives of service toward our neighbors. As with many things one encounters in such a formative time, these conversations have followed me for much of my life and I’m certain they will continue to plague me…er…serve to enlighten my experiences.
Fittingly, last year at the Institute for Liturgical Studies, a conference held at Valparaiso University every spring, I attended a workshop entitled “Reflecting on Vocation in your Congregation” led by Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass. They offered the following working definition of vocation:
Vocation is the shape that faith, active in love, takes in the world.
I found this to be so freeing. Vocation isn’t that one thing we are meant to do; we have multi-career lives. It isn’t only a set of social roles; we are more than fathers, mothers, children, etc. It isn’t a way of establishing one’s worth; there is no hierarchy of calls. It is not only “church work”; there are calls to work outside of the church. Vocation isn’t an individual matter only; what we do affects the people around us.
Much of this resonated with me as I was completing my graduate studies. I often found myself asking, but what’s the point of learning how to play if isn’t helping anyone? I wanted to be able to use the skills and artistry I had developed in service to a calling. I was looking for a way to use the skills I had been given, the skills I had continued to develop, in service to my neighbors.
Of course, I have many ways to do just that. I lead worship and teach. I offer my expertise on committees and engage in discussions with my friends and colleagues. And, as I do all of these things I try to remain keenly aware that I am called to use my knowledge and skills with a service-oriented mindset.
How do you serve your neighbors? What special things can you do, that no one else can, to help make the world around you a better place? What shape does your faith, active in love, take in the world?