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Calling or career

Is there a difference between our “calling” and the everyday work we do at our jobs? Voices from our BIC community help us to distinguish between “calling” and “career.” Kim S. Phipps Messiah College (Mechanicsburg, Pa.)

“Whitworth College professor Gerald Sittser offers a helpful distinction between ‘calling’ and ‘career.’ He defines ‘calling’ as a theological word that refers to ‘a God- given purpose to use one’s time, energy, and abilities to serve God in the world.’ The word ‘career’ is not theological; it refers to a ‘particular line of work that a person does that earns an income, requires education and training, and keeps society running.’ The two words overlap. Career is often central to how a person fulfills his or her calling, but it is only a part of a person’s vocation, and sometimes it plays only a very minor role.

Vocation is a fluid concept. It refers to a life journey filled with successes, disappointments, joys, sorrows, and surprises. Life is not a straight line, and we often discover that it is the crook in the road, the hill up ahead, or the unexpected vista that truly enriches our lives. . . .

Regardless of careers or other roles, the Apostle John expresses our primary vocation when he tells us that we are called to love God and that God abides in us if we abide in love (1 John 4:16). . . . The joy of life’s journey comes from the opportunity available to each of us to experience, experiment, and explore the possibilities, all the while trusting our God to use our failures and successes for good. We are all pilgrims on a journey seeking to fulfill our unique calling as servants of God.”

This excerpt was adapted from Kim’s article in the Winter 2002 issue of The Bridge magazine, with permission from the editor.

John Melhorn Faith BIC (Essex, Md.)

“A calling is not based on a job title. It is the work in which you know God wants you to be doing; in fact, God seems to have shaped you for it. The work or task seems to fit you like a glove. It seems God created you for it. It could be anything: barber, financial planner, pastor, housewife, custodian, mechanic, and so forth.

As author and priest Brennan Manning writes in The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives, ‘Everybody has a vocation to some form of life-work. However, behind that call (and deeper than any call), everybody has a vocation to be a person to be fully and deeply human in Christ Jesus.’ With this in mind, we can all enjoy our callings.”

This article originally appeared in the winter 2014 issue of In Part magazine.

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