Bullets to the Bodies (A Vocational Question)

Yesterday, I wrote of my vocational transition, the ways in which I’m trading down–local vocational relevance for an increasing irrelevance. As an attorney, I cultivated the appearance of importance. I was a partner in the largest firm in the state. I worked on the right cases (sometimes), learned the right angles (a few acute and obtuse ones, too). I owned nice suits and power ties.

Then, I quit.

Now, I’ve adopted a new vocational persona–the pensive writer (let’s call a thing a thing) whose local vocational relevance is waning. I peck words on a keyboard in the local coffee shop, and The Suits I’ve known for so many years waive and nod from the counter without stopping by my table. (Except Dale Brown–a gentleman and scholar if ever there were one.) I’m not the person to know around the community anymore. I’m just a guy. Plain and simple.

But is it that plain and simple? I want you to believe it’s all so romantic, so take-up-my-crossy. But I can’t run from the truth: I ain’t no saint.

In the downward slide of local vocational relevance, I’m learning how easy it is to transfer my need for relevance and competency to the new vocation. Now, relevance isn’t measured by suits, or the amount of money in my account, or the size of my nest egg. Now, it’s measured in page-views, or book sales, or new subscribers, or social media shares. (That was a most embarrassing sentence to write.) It’s measured in the CLANG!-CLANG!-CLANG!-look-at-my-opinions-and-say-MMMMMMMMMMM-HMM (with all those M-s).

Relevance is the dog you adopted from the animal shelter, the one who will not ever leave you be.

My confession today is simple: my need for vocational competency and relevance did not die the day I left the law office, the day I’d have you believe I left everything behind to follow the divine path. (Doesn’t that sound so spiritual?) Perhaps leaving my previous career was a bullet to the leg but not to the head. And though I apologize for the metaphorical crassness, did Paul not say we had to murder our lesser selves to be set free? (Romans 6:7)

Like so many, I’m still looking for freedom in my vocation, and by freedom, I mean a way to be myself, free of expectation, the hounding need for competency, the need for relevance that’s as persistent as a hangover. I’m looking for a way to become more by becoming less. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m starting with the right question, I think:

What is the aim of my vocation?

Keep asking the question with me. Keep digging, digging, digging. Keep noticing how much of your vocation is driven by the need for relevance, competency, and validation. Keep noticing the lesser bodies that need killing.

Come along?

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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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  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Seth, these posts about vocational questions and your ‘happenstance’ reading of A.W.Tozer at this particular time sounds like the perfect pairing of God’s voice and your ears. Always enjoy your words, sir.

    • sethhaines

      It’s crazy how that works out from time to time. You know?

  • I appreciate you sharing this, Seth. These are not always (ever?) easy conversations to have…but your honesty makes it worthwhile, because really, what’s the point in entering into this if you can’t be straight-up-ugly-honest with the tension of living into your vocation and craving validation. You’re saying things that some of us haven’t found the words for, or the ability to voice it yet…thanks, friend. Your wrestling helps us all–well, it helps me at least.

    • sethhaines

      Thanks so much, Kris. And I agree… what’s the point if we can’t be honest? Let’s keep wrestling, all of us. Yes?

  • Gwen Acres

    No matter what the stage of life, living it with meaning and validation is always with me. Having just read the Obituaries in my local newspaer I am once again reminded of how quickly our days fly by. To love and be loved and how to work that out in real time as a senior (a young one in my mind) is my ‘vocational’ goal now. So thank you Seth. Your words are timeless …

    • sethhaines

      Thanks for the sobering reminder, and for sharing these thoughts. The words are what they are, but your story genuinely is timeless.

      Much peace.

  • ToddHiestand

    Been on a similar (yet very different) journey, my friend. Thankful for your words.

    • sethhaines

      I’m thankful for you, Todd. Keep at it.

  • Lisa F

    I recently read an article about leadership by Henri Nouwen that includes the temptation for relevance. Its excellent, might enhance your reflections if you haven’t seen it. Thanks for writing. Here’s the link: http://www.christianity9to5.org/three-temptations-of-a-christian-leader/

    • sethhaines

      Thanks for this. It’s gold.