Friday, May 10, 2013

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life Part 4

Our last post on Schuurman's book, Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life focused on how vocation can impact "pivotal" decisions in our life. This last post of this book seeks to answer the question, "How does vocation shape our actions, decisions, and attitudes as they are expressed within our particular spheres?" (151). A "general" answer to this question is "Vocation encourages Christians to see themselves as created and redeemed by God's grace, so that they will express their love for God and God's world through each and all of these spheres"(151). In all these "spheres" the Christian should bear the fruit of the Spirit.

The author warns us to be afraid of idolatry. In this he is warning against workaholism. For example, he states that we know "people who devote so much time and energy to their paid work that they neglect spouse, children, church, and friends" (152). He mentions also the danger of equation "our identity with our paid work" (152). This reminds me of an earlier post when I observed that our vocation is larger than our paid work. Many men soon after retiring kick the bucket. In contrast, to finding our identity in paid work, Schuurman suggests that our calling to Christ and His mission in the world is what "determines worth and meaning" (153). 

The author observes that there are not only conflicts between one sphere but also different spheres. We have multiple callings. These conflicts often leave us with guilty feelings. The author states, "Vocation frees us from some of the guilt that might plague us by helping us to recognize that we are limited" (154). We cannot do everything. We must prioritize what God wants us to do. It will depend on the gifts and callings He has given us. The authors states, "Some people refuse to recognize the limits of their callings, believing themselves to be responsible in the same way for needs outside and inside their divine spheres" (154). This will lead to false guilt and burnout.

Schuurman says vocation should also motivate us to "periodic revision of priorities" (155). This is an important point because circumstances change. At certain stages of life certain things will be emphasized over other. For example, parents will want to make more time for children when they are younger because before you know it they are all grown up.

Vocation teaches us to teat others with "mutual respect." Schuurman asserts that vovation "reminds Christians that this world is God's beloved creation, the people in it are image-bearers of God, and that Christ is incarnate in the people one is serving through one's callings" (158). Even a small cup of water offered in our savior's name will be rewarded. The small things can "become avenues of God's grace" (158).

What about changes in one's career? How does one know when to make them? Barth can help us answer these questions. He says we need both an external and internal reason. The external would be the availability to meet a human need. The internal would be an internal motivation to meet that need. Barth, however, warns agaist a "restless" spirit. Barth states, "other possibilities must never distract a person from the tasks at hand. If disobedience to God's command in the present sphere is the source of one's desire to go elsewhere, then one ought not to make the move"(159). This is a strong temptation in modern American society. People began to get itchy feet. Wendell Berry has written wisely on this topic. He says that there are areas in our character that will never be developed if we move every time we encounter a problem.

Is the idea of calling really important? Why should one consider their work as a calling or vocation? Schurrman lists two reasons for thinking of work as a calling. First, "It infuses work with religious meaning, leading to integration of one's life," and second, "it requires constant ethical assessment of the products and processes of work" (162). We are God's called-out ones to be His representatives in this world.

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