Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Vocation: What God Has Given You to Do

"Vocation" is a word that has sort of fallen out of favor. We seem to prefer to use words like career, business, job, or even calling. But vocation is a much broader and deeper concept. It is also much more helpful to us in thinking about our whole lives.

That's because a career or business or job is only a partial, time-bound part of who we are as individuals. While these may span a number of years, even so they only deal with a part of what we do or who we are even for that time period. If, for example, your job or career is a firefighter or an engineer, it occupies 40 or 50 or maybe even 60 hours a week. Taking out 8 hours/day for sleep, that still leaves up to 72 hours a week for other endeavors. When we're thinking about our lives, all of our endeavors are important. Just because one of these is what we get paid for doesn't mean that it should dominate our idea of who we are. In addition, for this generation, career may represent only a third of our lifetime, with retirement and second acts encompassing an equal amount of time.

That's why I like the word vocation, and this particular definition of vocation: Vocation is what God has given you to do with your life.

That certainly includes your job or your career or your business.

It also includes the other things God has given you to do.
  • Being a spouse, a parent, a grandparent.
  • Being a child, a brother or sister.
  • Being a friend and a neighbor.
  • Serving in your church and community.
  • Perhaps even being a family caregiver, or any of the other myriad things we are called to do.
Having spent time observing people, and in recent years coaching individuals, it's often obvious that individuals are uniquely qualified to do what God has given them to do. When they have a good fit in career, they perform well and find satisfaction and success. Sometimes it's equally obvious that individuals have found themselves in careers or jobs for which they are not suited, and they struggle, don't perform well, are frustrated, and unsuccessful.

In some of the other situations, the uniqueness has more to do with the fact that they are in the role they're in -- if they don't fulfill the role, no one will.

When an individual moves into retirement, all these facets of vocation are in play. The career portion is the major change.

Traditionally (at least for the century or so we've had retirement), career has gone away, and the other facets of vocation expand to fill the time and the void. People spend more of their time in their roles as spouses, parents, grandparents, and often increase their time serving the church and the community.

More recently, as lifespans have increased, some have begun "second acts." These second acts may be new careers or starting businesses or they may be significant service or ministry roles, along with more time devoted to other roles as well.

Depending on your individual situation, God may be calling you to a traditional retirement or to begin a second act.
  • Family needs may dictate that your vocation in retirement be largely devoted to family.
  • Opportunities for increased service in a church or in the community may be God calling you to devote more of your vocational time and energy in that arena.
  • The emotional and/or financial need to continue working may dictate a second career.
  • The desire to serve others in a major way may mean that your vocation incorporates a new act in ministry.
Where is God leading you? What is God giving you to do in your retirement? It could be to any one or a combination of these. So what will be the elements of your vocation in retirement?

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