As a child living in the Midwest, I had to take a class on Ohio History in 7th grade. Whether I wanted to or not, I learned about the notable personalities which reigned from my home state, and the following is what I ascertained. Ohio was the home of seven presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren Harding. The great World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker was born in the buckeye state, and the famous comedian Bob Hope moved from Great Britain to Ohio when he was a young child. And then there is Johnny Paycheck. Mr. Paycheck, an Ohio native, was a country singer who sang a song which has become a battle cry for many disillusioned workers. And here is the refrain to that song. “Take this job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more.”
Work can illicit both positive and negative responses. Since most will spend between forty and fifty years of their lives working with people, filling specific tasks, creating objects, completing orders, and leading or being led, work is a significant aspect of our daily living. Some enjoy their work immensely. Some hate their occupations. Some jump from job to job seeking satisfaction and others have both good days and bad days in their fields. So, what gives?
How about we look at work in a different way. Instead of just having a job, have we ever thought that we might be called to a particular “Vocation?” Vocation is more than just an occupation, its how were called to live our lives. Maybe we’re called to be a parent or grandparent. Maybe we’re called to be married or single. Maybe we’re called to be a part of certain relationships. Maybe we’re called to a specific career. Maybe we’re called to be retired. Vocation is when we are called to live our lives for God’s purposes.
In Romans 8:28 it is written, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” II Timothy 1:9 tells us that God has “saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of his own purpose of grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
Since a very young age, I felt Jesus calling me to be a pastor. And as soon as I graduated from college, I was enrolled as a seminary (pastor training school) student to begin my studies. I literally moved all my belongings to the school and began classes in the Greek language. Sadly, I only lasted four days and quit. I couldn’t handle it. As I again packed up and moved back to my parent’s home, I felt like a failure. I was in crisis mode, trying to figure out what God’s purpose was for my living. The funny thing was that as I was giving up on myself, God still had a plan for me. After working as a night manager in a grocery store, being turned down for teaching positions, and contemplating a career in insurance, an opportunity that I did not expect came out of the blue to be a youth director for three small churches in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. And from that wonderful experience I successfully went back to seminary.
As the years have gone by, its dawned on me that all these different life experiences prepared me for what I am doing now. I think much of our struggle with work is because we’ve made decisions about what we’re going to do, rather than consulting with Christ on what he wants us to do.
God is calling each one of us when it comes to career, relationships, and purpose-vocation. As we begin a new year, may we be open to Jesus direction, and enjoy where ever the Lord has “planted” us in this very moment. May we cling to God’s Word in Joshua 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”