I first heard the voice when I was about 13 years old. I had started my first job at a CLC store in the Caribbean and right away I knew that I liked what I was doing. The voice said something like this, “Do what you love and love what you do.” It seemed natural to me to pursue those things that I enjoyed and to avoid those things that were no fun at all. Most children start life that way and soon discover that things don’t quite work like that – or maybe they do.
Like most young people I held a serious of low paying, tedious jobs during my teenage years and yet the voice kept speaking. At one point my brother and I were hired to water plants in an enormous outdoor nursery. It was hot, monotonous and boring work. Worst of all it was lonely. Interacting with other workers was frowned upon and this was a pretty solitary job anyway. Later on, I was hired to work in a fast food restaurant and something clicked. The work was still fairly routine, but I was asked to work on the register and that made all the difference. I discovered that I loved interacting with people, serving them quickly and watching them smile as I got their order right (most of the time). On many days, I had no idea how long I had been working until my boss told me it was time to clock out.
As I entered my college years, I tried to listen to the voice even more and chose to study Human Resources Management and worked as a Resident Assistant in the dormitory for two years. The intricacies of human nature greatly intrigued me and I was delighted to learn that I could use this curiosity in the business world. People are fascinating creatures and never cease to disappoint as a source of opportunity and challenge. Working with people on a regular basis is never boring.
During my early working career, I discovered another reality. Many people that I spent time with had not listened to the voice at all or simply ignored it. So many of my colleagues saw their work as drudgery or worse and had a “clock in and clock out” mentality. Their view of work was that it was something to be endured on the way to the weekend and hopefully it would afford some kind of monetary benefit. Far too often, these same people became bitter about life and were no fun to work with at all. I quickly decided that I did not want to become one of them.
In my late twenties, I discovered that God had something to say about this voice of vocation. If I continued to pursue those things that I enjoyed about work, I would find fulfillment, but not ultimate fulfillment. That would only come if I was willing to surrender completely to His will. After a time of wrestling like Jacob in the Old Testament, God got my attention and shaped my will to His. While there have been many turns in the road since then, I have no regrets. It has not always been easy, but God has made my work a delight and made me useful for His purposes.
Looking back, I wished that I had realized earlier that God himself was speaking to me through those critical moments. He made me for a purpose and wanted me to discover His will for my life’s work. It was true that I could do what I loved and love what I do, but that was only the first part. A far deeper satisfaction comes from seeing that what I do is making a difference in other people’s lives for eternity. Nowadays I get to work with people who generally have a different view of their work. While what they do may have routine, even tedious elements to it, they typically do their work with joy and satisfaction. Some of my team members around the world actually risk their lives to open a bookshop each day. I am humbled to work alongside these men and women who took time to say yes to God and allowed him to transform their work into a sacred and satisfying vocation.