Over the years I have found the best way to determine the validity of my call to ministry is in asking two questions: First, am I enjoying what I am doing? Second, am I vocationally satisfied that my ministry is truly giving glory to God?
In asking these questions, I am not saying there isn’t a sober sense of empathy for the pain and suffering of others. Ministry is hard and there is often pain and grief in doing God’s work as a pastor. At the same time can I go home to kiss my wife and hug my daughter (when she is home) in knowing that what I am doing is truly a “vocational call” to be serving God even when it hurts?
Throughout my professional life, now almost forty years, I have used the first question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism as a guide:
What is the Chief end of Man (Humankind)? Answer: “To Glorify God and Enjoy God forever.
This fits perfectly with my definition of vocation.
My understanding of “Vocation” also fits with what Frederick Buechner says in a post on Facebook post on 11/11/14:
VOCATION comes from the Latin vocare, “to call,” means the work a person is called to by God.
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self-interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need to do and (b) that the world needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words)
Currently on disability and soon to be retired, I am limited in what I can do. I have major physical limitations. I struggle now from my home office in determining what God is calling me to be doing. What am I doing for the glory of God and the benefit of others?
What I know for sure, is that now fir the first time in many years, I am putting my family and myself on the top of my list of priorities. I can now make family plans without worrying about church meetings or the pastoral demands of a particular congregation. The issues and struggles don’t go away. My daughter is facing major surgery in a couple of weeks. The world of issues and needs hasn’t gone away. I just don’t have primary responsibility in responding to these issues or needs as I used to when I was an installed pastor of a particular church. Others have now been called to do this hands-on work.
Now I ask, vocationally: What can I do to take better care of myself for the benefit of my family and so that my Grandson will have many more years to enjoy his grandfather? Given the hard work before me in taking care of myself, this “call” is going to demand a lot of prayer and encouragement from others.
So I ask those who may read this blog: What is your understanding of vocation? Are you giving glory to God and enjoying God in what you have been called to do and be?
Thanks be to God for all the gifts God has entrusted our care.