“Living into your vocation”–what does this mean?

Ever since I started seminary, I’ve heard the word “vocation” a lot. People want to know: why are you here? What’s your “call story”? It can be a tough question to answer if you don’t really know what they’re asking.

“Vocation” isn’t a word we typically hear in daily life, especially outside of the church. The way we look at life is different when we go about our lives in a more secular context. In my own experience, I’ve found that we tend to segment life into pieces.

For instance, at work, someone might do a job because it’s financially lucrative. At home, that person might be a parent because that is his or her passion. On weekends, life might involve volunteering because sharing your talents with the community is the right thing to do.

When we look at life through the lens of vocation, we hope to bring these pieces of life together.

Vocation is found when passion, ability and meaning intersect. I’ve heard friends break this idea down into a couple of parts. When discerning vocation, ask yourself: What are my talents? What do I enjoy? What will provide me with a living wage? And what do others need from me?

Attending seminary or some type of theological school engages all of these questions on a deep level. The nature of what you’re studying demands this of you. As a seminarian or theological student, you’re devoting your life to thinking about divine beings and the meaning of the universe. When you read and write and study, (I think) considering the purpose of the world is what’s really at the crux of what you’re doing. Put in those terms, those questions might sound abstract, but they really couldn’t be more immediate. How can you help but ask how you fit into everything around you?

Speaking for myself, this can be a tough process. I suppose it should be a tough process, if you’re really challenging yourself and pushing yourself to follow your passion. For me, I’m finding that I probably won’t be able to balance all of these elements of vocation at all times—particularly relating to the “living wage” aspect.

I hope to be a pastor, and the truth is that many pastors simply don’t make very much money. Yet, even if my plans don’t involve a perfect life and a perfect career, it doesn’t mean that they’re not worth pursuing. Finding my vocation doesn’t mean it won’t be messy and unglamorous at times.

I’m very much looking forward to working as a minister someday, but I’ll also have other responsibilities and goals in my life, as well. I hope to be a parent and a world traveler and an active member of my community when I’m “off the clock.” That can be part of my vocation, too.

It’s not only working pastors who are called to a certain vocation—anyone can feel that sense of purpose in what they do, whether that’s working part-time at a food bank, or deciding to be a stay-at-home parent, or committing to a successful career as an accountant. In seminary, we talk about God calling us to a particular life as people of faith. What’s the life that you feel is waiting for you? Maybe you’re well on your way there.