Vocation As Verb, Rather Than Noun

A former student sent me a newsletter from her church that had a wonderful article on vocation. The article included the important reminder that vocation is not static, discussing the danger that “once we name the thing we are called to” we may “begin to live into a static definition, an idea” that keeps us from being open to God’s call in each moment, thus preventing us from meeting the needs of our world.

The author of the article makes this suggestion for avoiding the static trap:

It might help to think of vocation as a verb rather than a noun. It is an ongoing attentiveness, an ongoing listening to an ever-unfolding process being called out by God. Our gifts are directions to us of how to engage with the world in this service vehicle of vocation, and they keep directing as they, the landscape, and we keep changing.

Discernment of vocation is not a one-shot deal, but a life-long process. We need to have sensitivity to the fact that God may have different plans for us at different times. That can be difficult because it means that the best one can ever say is I am where I am supposed to be right now, but I need to be open to fact that God may want me to do something else at a different time.

Secular notions of success interferes with the understanding that vocation is not static. Secular success means furthering our career and many fear that making changes from what they’ve been doing will look “too much like failure.” Related to this is a common fallacy one author referred to as the “I’ve-invested-too-much-to-stop-now” principle. There is a temptation to stay in one’s current position long after it becomes clear that it no longer aligns our gifts and desires with the needs of the world. These tendencies are aggravated by the fact that success in career is measured by how much we have.

It takes work in the context of the world in which we live to think of vocation as a verb, not a noun.