Growing up a missionary kid I really looked forward to our periodic trips back to the United States every few years so I could enjoy things like root beer and cheese steaks that were hard to come by in the countries where we lived. One thing that I did not look forward to as much were the questions that I always got asked – how much have you grown and what did you miss. Since I was “height challenged”, I normally had not grown as much as my peers and I missed everything. One question that I enjoyed answering was what I wanted to be when I grew up. As a child, it was fun to imagine what it would be like to be an adult one day. My answers were constantly changing. One year I wanted to be a police officer and the next a fireman. I think I may have even wanted to be a pilot for a while before I realized that this career might be slightly impeded by my growing fear of heights
As a college student, the idea of vocation and what I was going to do with my life took a number of interesting twists and turns. At different points in those years, I thought that I might be a roadie working with Christian bands, an attorney, a pastor or maybe a politician. In the end I pursued a career in Human Resources Management working with people and helping companies to hire, retain and train the workforces that they needed to be effective. Never once in all of those years did I think that I would be a missionary working with books. My, how God works in mysterious ways.
At a key point in my mid twenties, I received a piece of advice that would change the trajectory of my life. A man that I respected knew that I was still wrestling with the question of vocation and he commented that I would find the place of my greatest satisfaction and productivity at the place where my gifting and the will of God intersected. Little did I know at that point that my training in business and my love of books would lead to a career in Christian retailing an publishing.
Far too often, I run into people who feel stuck on the treadmill of life in a job that is neither satisfying nor productive. When confronted, they comment that they had no idea that this is what they would be doing one day; but now feel that they can’t do anything else. What holds them back is what was holding me back for a long time as well – the false idea that making enough money will make any job palatable. So many people spend lives of misery and frustration chasing an allusive and ultimately deeply destructive lie that Satan has used to sideline many Christians over the years.
Let me make it clear at this point that I do not believe that finding “true” vocational fulfillment always involves becoming a missionary, pastor or para-church worker. In fact, I think that God only calls a small number of people to pursue those types of careers; but I do think that he has a Holy Vocation plan for everyone who seeks it. Far too often we settle for lesser things rather pursuing the high calling that God has for us. Almost any legitimate profession can provide redemptive, God inspired work if we seek the Kingdom first and lay down our ambitions at the foot of the cross.
I remember being in college one day when one of my professors asked one of my fellow students what he wanted to achieve in life and he responded by saying that he wanted to make $80,000 per year before he was age 30. I was quick to condemn this young man in my heart and thought how shallow he was until I succumbed to the same type of thinking after I graduated. While I do believe that it is possible to make a lot of money and still have a Holy Vocation, I also think that God calls most of us in a different direction.
The older I have gotten, the shorter life seems and the more that I recognize my own mortality. James 4:14 says, “… What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” I want my work to be meaningful, productive and satisfying and I realize that it will only be that way as I do what glorifies God with the gifts that he has given me. I look forward to challenging those I come in contact with not to settle for what is possible but to strive for what only God can make happen in their lives as they allow him to be the ultimate career counselor.