You Have a Calling
The scholar N. T. Wright has a wonderful image of this: “Picture human beings as mirrors set at a forty-five degree angle between heaven and earth. We were created to reflect God’s care and dominion to the earth, and we were made to express the worship and gratitude of creation up to God. This is what we do when we work.” You have a calling. You have been gifted. You are a priest.
This is not just something that relates to volunteering at a church. Your work is a primary place — maybe the primary place — where your calling gets lived out. Maybe we should issue robes to electrical engineers, clerical collars to accountants, and vestments to auto mechanics every once in a while just to remind us of this.
In his book Habits of the Heart, sociologist Robert Bellah describes three orientations people take toward their work.
The first is to treat your work as a job. When you do this, you focus on it as a way to get money and pay bills. When asked, most people list money as the primary reason why they work. But if your focus is mainly on what you receive from your work, you will most likely come to resent it.
A second orientation is to approach your work as a career. Here your motivation will be higher, but your focus is on advancement and prestige. In a career orientation, your feelings about your work are based on how much success it is creating for you. If your career is not going well, it may feel to you as if your worth is on the line.
The third orientation is to look at your work as a calling. The language of vocation or calling is widespread, but it is rooted in the life of faith. If there is a “calling,” then there is someone making the call. That someone is God. That is why you cannot do just anything you want. You are not the call-er; you are the call-ee. Any work that has meaning, that can be a blessing to people and to the earth, can be a calling. A doctor or pastor might get sucked into viewing work as a means to get a good income, and therefore they only have a job. A garbage collector, however, may see what he does as part of making the world a cleaner and safer place and therefore have a calling.
Isaiah wrote, “When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? . . . Does he not plant wheat in its place? . . . His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. . . All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.” (Isaiah28:24-26, 29, NIV) God wants to meet you in your work.