A Vocational Question

In September of 2016, I left my day job as an attorney. I hung up the old suit-and-tie and opted instead for jeans and a standby pair of black Adidas. (As an aside, my sense of fashion is such that I do not call my jeans “Denim” as some are prone to do these days. I only recently learned the term “Selvedge”.) I struck out into the world of words, hoping to find a way to carve out a living scratching sentences. As of the writing of this piece, I’ve not yet starved to death. (An accomplishment of sorts; just ask any writer.)

In these last few months of entrepreneurial writing, an increasing sense of irrelevance has set in. In the local coffee shops, the old lunch haunts, the boardrooms, I’ve become a non-player. I walk a new career path with much less polished shoes (sometimes sandals), and that path is much lonelier. The phone rings less than it once did. My advice is less sought, at least in the legal context. Some think me crazy, insane to leave a job that provided comfort, security, and the opportunity to own fine leather goods for something that is… Who knows what?

It’s a tricky thing, following a path that seems tailor-made for you even if it is less lucrative. (Lucre makes the world go round, doesn’ it?) I know I’m not special in this. How many entrepreneurs have confessed to feeling this way? But this exercise in increasing irrelevance and decreasing security has me asking this question:

What is the aim of vocation?

Vocation could be reduced to a great many things, I suppose–provision; security; validation; power; relevance; fill-in-the-blank. I chased some of those things for years, and time after time, they proved to be quite unsatisfying. (Isn’t it the story of every man (heroic or common) who chased the wind?) And now I find myself at the stillness of my desk, pecking out words about vocation and discovering that I never quite started my career at the right place. I never started by asking the right question. I asked questions like:

How can I maximize my income?

or 

How can I exercise my gifts?

or

How can I be seen (as relevant, competent, successful, whatever)?

Each time I tried to understand my vocation, I started with the wrong questions, and it led me to the wrong answer. Consumed by the questions of modernity, I found modernity’s answers. Those answer satisfied for a while; in the end, though, they were empty calories.

I’m starting from square one, and I wonder how many of you might need to, too. This week, let’s consider the question: what is the aim of our vocation? Consider spending some time with that question today, and then, let’s explore it this week. 

Come along?

*

As I work through this short series on vocation, please feel free to invite others along.  I know I’m not alone in my questions on this topic, and I’d love to hear how you and your people are processing your own vocational questions.

 

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  • I know this journey. Not sure it resolves itself easily (or without some pain), but it does reveal a deeper place of peace if one is brave enough to move towards it. I’ve take a few steps in its general direction.

    • Dan Arnsperger

      Agreed. It’s a question so close to the core of our existence. This week two works are coming to mind. Where do i find my identity. Truly find it. Not what I’m supposed to say. And then when rightly found, am I living as an ambassador for Christ through the work that is before me.

      • sethhaines

        Right on, Dan.

    • sethhaines

      Yes you have. Trying to follow you.

  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    Starting with good questions is so essential. Maybe the questions themselves are worth more time, hold more fruit, than whatever answers present themselves at one time or another. I was thinking about vocation yesterday and remembered the Eric Liddell quote, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” I think that comment could easily be turned into a very helpful question regarding vocation, “When do I feel God’s pleasure?”

    • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

      Although I do have to say the college aged me, most concerned with the issue of vocation, would have looked at the asker of such a question like they had four heads. Sometimes, we aren’t ready to grapple with the right questions, so we settle for something lesser. I’m not sure that is such a bad thing as long as it leads us, eventually, down the road to better questions.

    • sethhaines

      Yes, yes, yes. I love this question. It’s worth asking.