by Angela T. Khabeb
The Merriam Webster website defines the word vocation as: “a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work (such as religious work), and the work that a person does or should be doing.”
It is helpful to know these definitions because in many segments of our culture, our careers are closely linked with our identities. It is necessary to remind ourselves that what we do is not the totality of who we are. For instance, my three primary vocations are that of wife, mother, and pastor. Yet, I cannot be fully encapsulated in any one or all three. It’s no wonder that our vocations can often overlap and seemingly compete.
Earning a living: What we are paid to do
Many of us work to earn a living. Our vocation is our job–the way we make ends meet. If we are fortunate enough to find employment, we go to work day after day, not because we necessarily want to, but because we have to. We are motivated by simple economics for basic survival. Sadly, even though we benefit monetarily, we may be depleting our joy reserves. What we gain in financial security, we may be sacrificing in personal fulfillment.
Finding fulfillment: What we love to do
Perhaps you have heard some version of the old adage: “Do what you love and then find a way to get paid for it.” Some of us may have the joy of finding fulfillment through our careers. But for many, this is not the case. Fortunately, in these situations, we can turn to our avocation.
The word avocation means “a subordinate occupation pursued in addition to one’s vocation especially for enjoyment: hobby.” If you love to garden, get your hands in the earth. If you love to run, lace up your shoes and hit the pavement. If you love to write, open your journal and get busy! As we increase our joy and our sense of fulfillment, our spiritual senses will sharpen. Then we will be able to hear God’s voice more clearly.
Hearing God’s voice: What we are called to do
The words vocation, avocation, and voice share the same Latin root, vocare, which means to call.
God’s word is brimming with call stories. For example, God extended the priestly call to Samuel in an audible voice when he was just a little boy (1 Samuel 3). God called Queen Esther to perilous heroism through the urging of Mordecai, her adopted father. She was called to risk her life to save God’s people (Esther 4:12-15). In the gospels, we witness Jesus personally calling his disciples by interrupting their daily routines (Matthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-11). God sent the Angel, Gabriel, to proclaim to Mary that she will carry the Savior of the world (Luke 1:26-38).
Certainly, most of us have not heard the audible voice of God calling to us in the middle of night. Nor have many of us received a visit from an angel or a personal invitation from Jesus compelling us to immediately leave our occupations. However, even without such supernatural experiences, we are no less called than Mary, Esther, or Samuel. Yes, we are called. We are called through our baptism.
Our baptismal call
Through baptism, we become children of God. The language of the baptismal rite is clear, “You belong to Christ, in whom you have been baptized.” At the font, the pastor traced the cross on our foreheads and proclaimed, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
Through baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit serves to empower us to live into our baptismal call. We are called to trust God, proclaim Christ, and care for ourselves and others. We are called to care for God’s creation, and work for justice and peace. The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, will begin to blossom in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
Modern, modest, call stories
I interviewed several friends and colleagues before writing this article. Four conversations stood out from the rest. Our church office manager, Kay, “heard” her call through the example of a respected role model. At the age of 11 years old she discovered that she was “called to be a secretary.” It was a simple yet profound experience. One day, she was visiting her mother at work. When she saw her mother sitting behind a lovely desk, “all dressed-up,” fingers sailing across a typewriter, she “just knew that’s what [she] wanted to be.”
Jacquie, a parishioner, felt her call from deep within. She was confident that motherhood was her vocation. But as her children grew older, her desire to become a teacher grew stronger. In her 30s, she said she “just knew” that she was also called to be a kindergarten teacher. And even though she is retired, she still teaches confirmation class today.
Our church organist, Alida, was a college student during the turbulent 1960s. She wanted to make a positive difference in the changing world around her. She felt called to teach specifically in an inner-city school system and did so successfully for over 20 years.
Lastly, I talked to my sister, Amber Ruffin, a successful comedian. I asked her if she thought she was put on earth to make people laugh. Confident that she would say “yes,” I was surprised by her answer. She responded, “No. I can do anything and still be happy.”
Then it struck me. There’s another call we share–the call to be . . . authentic.
Wake up, get up, and SHINE!
Perhaps our most challenging vocation may simply be for us to simply be ourselves. I’m not talking about merely finding your talent and sharing it with the world. Discovering our gifts and talents is admirable and even vital but how can we use our gifts to reflect God’s glory. Isaiah extends a call to God’s people in exile. The prophet writes, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
I am thoroughly convinced that this vocation extends to us as well: Wake up. Get up. And SHINE! This call connects us to the baptismal waters where we initially received our vocation. Perhaps this is why after baptism, we are given a candle with these words, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
So, whether we are pastor or parishioner, mother or mogul, single or spouse, wealthy or wanting, God is calling us to a bold vocation: Wake up. Get up. And SHINE!
1. How would you spend your days if earning a living were no concern?
2. Share a time when you felt called.
3. To what degree are you living into your authentic self? What empowers or prevents you from doing so?
Glorious God, you shower your glory upon us. Strengthen us to rise up and walk in your radiance. Awaken a new boldness within us so that we can live into our authentic selves and shine forth your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.
The Rev. Angela T. Khabeb serves as the pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Delphos, Ohio. She has an amazing husband, Benhi, two spectacular sons, Konami and Khenna, and a precious baby girl, Khonni.
Like you definitions of vocations and realized my call to be a Deaconess (ELCA) and work with seniors came with all of them. Would have done the same if I could have afforded to not get payed. In my retirement I am called to pray and that fits them all also
This really hit home. Several of our church members have had a calling to establish and run ministries, fulfilling the Great Commission. In an email, a council member told us that we have no life because we have focused our life on doing His work. This was a refreshing article that affirms what we are doing whether appreciated by our parish or not.
Thanks, Sister Donna.
Many are called. But few answer the phone! Thanks you for answering God’s call to ministry!
It’s great to hear a gifted voice in the trenches similar to mine as a mother of young children and a pastor! Your article has made me think of my vocation and find myself in the midst of it. And shine!
Thank you so much for breaking down the various vocations and making them intergenerational. It is so important that as we are challenged to revisit our vocations that we are doing what brings us joy in some place of our lives. And I truly appreciate that we are called to “Shine” even when others try to block the sun from reigning down on us.
This article is right on the money! These are things we don’t really think about. These discussion questions are something we should all look at – who knows what you could realize!