Career And Calling
Every man wishes for the opportunity to make his living in his calling. Most men probably don’t use the term "calling" to describe that thing that "makes them come alive" (as John Eldridge puts it1). Nevertheless, men desire to do work that is meaningful and that has purpose. However, the vast majority of men do not make their living pursuing their calling.
Gary North has described "calling" as that God ordained assignment in life you are especially suited to do and in which you would be difficult to replace. This isn’t necessarily the activity you do to earn a living for your family. In fact, according to North, it probably isn’t: I tend to agree.
To begin with, every man (married or not), is called to earn his keep (1 Thess. 4:11, 2 Thess. 3:10-12). Married men have a special duty - calling if you will - to support their own family, including their extended family if necessary (1 Tim. 4:8). This is the unarguable calling on the life of every man. To fulfill this calling, a man must exercise a certain amount of self sacrifice and courage. Self sacrifice because he almost certainly has something else in life he rather do2. Courage because it is difficult to see your life slipping away without ever having accomplished anything you consider meaningful. There are thousands, millions of men who labor year after year at jobs they merely tolerate because they understand that they have a duty to provide for their household. These men are to be applauded. Christian or not they exemplify manly character in this particular sense.
Nevertheless, the Christian men among that throng need to understand that there is more to their life than simply punching the clock. Each and every one of them has been called by God to more. I’m not suggesting that they should abandon their job, disregard the needs of their wife and children and run after that thing that makes them "come alive." There is never any valid excuse for showing indifference to your spouse and kids. Unfortunately there are plenty of men who do just that and justify it as collateral damage in the battle for the kingdom of God. In a word, bullshit. Strong language is in order and I don’t use it here carelessly. I am particularly keen on this problem because I (unfortunately), have been guilty of this sort of b.s. myself.
Nevertheless, I am suggesting that men do some soul searching and consider what it is that God might want them to do in addition to the work they perform to support their family; and in addition to making sure that they are spending adequate time with their family; and, in addition to providing proper leadership to their family.
It may be that they have been prepared through their work to fulfill the calling on their life. Smith may have spent the past 25 years working as a line mechanic at the local Chevrolet dealership. He may feel called to evangelize the youth in his home town. Well, Smith should consider offering instruction in auto mechanics to the young men in his neighborhood. He would then have opportunity to disciple young men in the Faith while he disciples them in the intricacies the modern automobile engine. I won’t go into all the details of how that could be done, because frankly I don’t know the details. Smith will have to figure that out for himself; it’s part of his joy in pursuing his calling. Smith may also find that God, in His good pleasure, will allow him to make his living working in his own shop with a gaggle of apprentice mechanics he can evangelize every day, eight hours a day.
The bottom line is that you should not ignore whatever it is that you have a deep seated desire to do. Again, I’m not saying that you should run willy-nilly after whatever your foolish little heart desires. Any pursuit of calling must take place within the proper context: prayerfully, in counsel with your wife (if you’re married), with advice from your pastor and or other mature men in the Lord all with an eye to how you can manage it without undue disruption of your primary duties. Keep in mind that it may be years before you are free to pursue your calling. That’s okay. Moses spent forty years in the land of Egypt and forty more in the wasteland before he began to work at his calling. Don’t forget that whatever you are doing now is preparing you to accomplish that thing God has called you just as the first eighty years of Moses’ life did for him.
1. John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 200
2. I’m reminded of a fellow I used to work with at the lumber mill north of Council Idaho. He was a very successful bow hunter - 26 elk in 27 years of hunting. He often told me that he would love to hunt professionally as a sponsored hunter with a television show. However, he had worked at the lumber mill for over twenty years - since he had graduated from high school - and expected to retire from the mill in another thirty or so.
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