I have a meeting this afternoon with a possible new employer. Naturally I’m looking at my resume. It reads as if it’s the resume for two different people. Today as I look at it I’m struck by the chasm between and the closeness of my daily work and my life-long vocation. The relationship between what I do to live and what I live to do is dynamic and a bit complicated.
Sometimes they are in conflict with each other. What I do to live sometimes feels like it’s getting in the way of what I live to do. Working in a print shop I get injured from time to time. At least twice those injuries have kept me out of church on Sunday. I sometimes resent the time and I have to spend doing my job because it’s time I can’t spend on reading and studying, praying and reflecting, planing and doing ministry, developing myself as a leader. I frequently feel frustrated because the energy I have to use doing my job leaves me with so little energy for ministry.
By the same token there are times when my vocation gets in the way of my job. The church’s calendar and the world’s calendar don’t always peacefully coexist. There are times when I have to take time from work to do what I’m called to do and I pay for that (literally).
The conflict between the two is fierce at times and it takes an emotional toll on me. One day I was lying on the Print Center floor, trying to repair the online finisher. As I tried to get my hand into a tight spot to adjust the machinery, I cut myself for the umpteenth time. I yelled, “What am I doing here? You’ve given me gifts and I can’t use them. What’s the point?” I sat there on the floor and cried.
But on the other hand, there are times when my job and my vocation feel like they are working together. There are times when I can help the church because I work in the Print Center. There are times when I can answer a question at work because of what I know from my vocation.
However the place where the two most often work together is in my personal spiritual development. Vocation and faith inform what I do at work. My work is a place where I can put into practice what I say in my vocation. My work is the place where I daily get to “do justice.” The daily choices I make about how to do my job with honesty and integrity are informed by my faith and my vocation.
My work is the place where I daily get to “love mercy.” All of my interactions in the workplace become chances to love my neighbor. Even the current moment is an opportunity to “do good to those who despitefully use you” (not that i’m doing well at that but let’s call that an area of growth for me).
My work is a place where I daily get to “walk humbly with your God.” I’m at the bottom of a large and complicated organizational chart. I have no title, no office and no institutional power. No one sings my praises. No one tells me how gifted I am. My name is not known. I’m just (as I heard one person describe me) “the older black woman who helps Darren.” Being a nobody in an institution like this stinks and I chaff under that weight. I guess humility is another area of growth for me.
My vocation informs my work but work also informs vocation. At work I hear what people are talking about and what’s important to them. I see behaviors. I notice priorities. I see how people are with each other. I observe how people struggle at work and in their lives beyond work. These experiences inform how I read the Scriptures, how I preach, what I think about the church’s mission priorities, and how to engage people in ministry.
That’s the dynamic relationship between my job and my vocation. I don’t see this changing anytime soon. The mix of that relationship may change but the interplay between work in the world and work in the church will probably be mine for the duration.