How To Find Your Vocation and a Meaningful Life

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As I write this, a family of squirrels meanders around my backyard. There must be a baker’s dozen of them. The whole deal is quite distracting for someone with A.D.D.

Squirrel.

Anyway, this is my writing backdrop. Something about squirrel life calms my soul. Don’t judge me. Maybe squirrels aren’t your thing, but chances are you identify with the outdoors on some level. Hunting. Camping. Running. Biking. Tree hugging.

God’s creation is a great preacher, if we have eyes to see. Most times I don’t. But every now and then, when the coffee’s brewed just right, my backyard takes me to church.

Yesterday was one of those times.

Watching those furry critters, God hit me with something:

Squirrels don’t need shrinks. 

They do the same stuff everyday. Hide acorns. Climb trees. Play chase. They do squirrel stuff. Not one time has any squirrel ever wanted to be a bird or a wasp or a tree. Squirrels are quite content with being squirrels, thank you.

Squirrels don’t need shrinks because they know who they are and why they’re here.

I spend a considerable amount of time questioning my identity and purpose. Blame it on my Millennial roots or Rick Warren, but my greatest fear is punching a clock or “working for the man.” You and I exist for more than a paycheck.

Even if our minds don’t believe this, our bodies do.

The most common time of the week for heart attacks is Monday morning. It’s true, Google it. Many people are engaged in meaningless work. And it’s killing us. Literally.

When you understand your identity and purpose, life makes sense. The key to realizing both is vocation. What is your vocation? How does it connect identity and purpose?

 

Here are 6 important truths about your vocation.

1. Your vocation is NOT your career.

We start here because nothing else matters if you miss this point. Your job or career is not your vocation.

For some of you this news is disappointing. I’m sorry.

For many, however, this news is liberating. Either way, you need to understand jobs and careers don’t define you.

It’s possible that your vocation happens outside your 9–5. You may call it parenting or coaching or writing.

This releases you from the bondage of linear thinking. I’m currently working on career number three (I worked as an engineer for two years and full-time pastor for five). My previous careers don’t exactly build on one another? Does that mean they’re wasted? Absolutely not. God used those years to mold and shape me, to expand my perspective.

We must let go of this silly notion that God has only one path for your life. Your vocation determines your path, not the other way around.

2. Your vocation will leave you feeling unqualified and overwhelmed.

Your vocation will not be easy. Your vocation might leave you in fetal position, weeping like an emotionally unstable teenager watching the season finale of This Is Us. Your vocation might lead you to the doorsteps of a counselor’s office. Regardless, it always brings you to the end of yourself.

Many people miss their vocation because they believe a meaningful life is easy. Surely it’s not this hard, right? I mean, if it’s not making me happy it can’t be from God.

Hog wash.

America’s two great lovers, comfort and security, tell lies, the myth of a meaningful life might be the most destructive. Anything worth having requires sacrifice. My life’s most meaningful endeavors – marriage, parenting, pastoring, and writing – inflicted the deepest wounds. They all came with great sacrifice, pain, and a heavy demand on my time and energy. But they also exposed my pride, as well as increased my capacity for empathy and compassion.

You can have an easy life or a meaningful one, but you can’t have both.

You can have an easy life or a meaningful one, but you can’t have both.

3. Your vocation always moves the world forward and contributes to the common good.

In Scripture, there exists a plethora of themes. Here’s one you may (or may not) have considered. God always moves creation forward. He moves people from slavery to freedom, from separation to union. God isn’t so much concerned with recapturing the past as he is with renewing it.

Your vocation will do the same. You can’t live in the past and experience a meaningful life. Your vocation will build bridges, not walls. Somehow, someway it assists in the forward movement of creation, from death to life, from despair to hope, from apathy to love.

I should also mention this while we’re here.

Success and accomplishments aren’t indicators of vocation. It’s possible to be at the top of the mountain with an empty heart. More times than not, you find your vocation in the valley, in those spaces where the spotlight doesn’t shine, in those areas where hope, beauty, and justice are needed most.

4. Your vocation involves a community.

Because your vocation is a divine implanting, it always, always involves a community. This is God’s way. He changes things through connection.

Your community helps you bear the weight of your vocation. Your community might also receive life from your vocation. This is the receiving (from others) and giving (to others) that makes your vocation possible. You need both.

5. You find your vocation at the intersection of what upsets you, ignites you, and gets you out of bed.

What ignites your heart and mind? What injustice or brokenness angers you? When do you feel most alive? If resources weren’t an issue, what would you do? If you had a year of life remaining, how would spend it?

When your giftedness and unique way of receiving love connects with an experience, you catch a glimpse of your vocation. And it’s beautiful. Time stands still.

Pay attention to these moments.

6. Vocation is the antidote to superficiality.

When you discover your vocation, you stop living in the past and future. The only moment of any significance is this moment, right now. Your vocation awakens you from your slumber. You see the world for what it is, not what you wish it were.

You lose interest in superficial issues. Body image, accomplishments and the Kardashians are no longer deserving of your time and energy. If superficiality really is the curse of our age, as Richard Foster says, then vocation is the antidote.

If superficiality is the curse of our age, vocation is the antidote.

If you sense there’s more to life, you’re right. You don’t have to dread Monday morning. You were created with meaning, for meaning. Once you understand who you are and whose you are, you can tap into your vocation. I pray you discover it.

Grace and peace, friends.

Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.

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