by Judy Allen
Discovering my vocation has been like following my iPhone when I don’t know where I’m going. It tells me the next turn, and only the next turn, on a need to know basis. God only knows – and I mean that literally – where it will end up. The process has brought to light my talents, personality, skills, and passions, and that’s helpful, but I still don’t know where I’m going.
That is not unusual, because one skill that I definitely do not have is a sense of direction. I’ve done u-turns, back-tracked, stopped and started, and zigzagged more times than I can count. I trust God is working me into the person he created me to be, because without him I would be hopelessly lost, figuratively and literally.
As I have zigzagged through life, I have learned what comes easily to me, what I like doing, what is well received, and what doesn’t work out so well. At times such self-knowledge has been helpful, but in midlife it can be disheartening. I find myself wishing that I had majored in something different in college or learned a particular skill at a younger age. But I simply didn’t know.
My husband and I have run our lives, and our careers, unusually. He had an opportunity to retire early, which he did, and he eventually went back to school to get a Master of Divinity degree. I had been taking on ever larger volunteer roles at Community Bible Study, emphasis on volunteer, and I also went back to school for a MA in Communication and Culture. During those years, we were not working for pay. We were serving and learning, our children were still in high school and college, and I will say that they were tremendous years. No regrets.
Now, however, we’re working, and we have discovered that it’s not easy to get back into the job market in midlife with theological graduate degrees. Sometimes my husband and I ask ourselves: What was all that about? Shouldn’t we be doing that which we were educated to do? Where are we going?
I rest in the following three truths:
God knows what he is doing, even if it makes no sense to us. My husband and I are both doing work that we never expected to be doing. Go figure. In fact, I picture God having a chuckle over the job I just took as a career advisor for a local high school. Maybe I can help a few high school students take a more direct route on their vocational journey. I’m doing my best to follow where he leads, stop for the occasional Really, God?, and trust him. Perhaps I should learn to laugh with him.
His timing is not at all what I would like it to be, but it is perfect. Perhaps the career zigzagging of my life will make sense in the future. Maybe it will all come together, and I will eventually be fruitfully working in a vocation that I love. It’s possible, but even if that never happens, I trust Him.
God’s purpose will prevail. When I think of vocational success, I think about those who were educated for exactly that which they excel at, love doing, and they make the world a better place through their work. Those who are in that situation have been wonderfully blessed. Maybe, for some of us who lacked self-understanding at a young age, God has a different goal in mind.
If my husband and I had stayed in our first careers and worked all those years, we would be in better shape financially, highly experienced in our fields, and thinking about moving someplace warm. Instead, we took a hard left turn off of the interstate where people speed along through decades of working and exit into a comfortable retirement. We broadened our knowledge base considerably and have a different perspective on life, work, and retirement, and I am very thankful.
God has a purpose for our experiences and our perspective, of that I am sure. What that purpose is still escapes me.
I recently read The Call, by Os Guinness, and it has helped me to put my vocational search into a larger context. He writes, “Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not something…” At least I got that right. Jesus has called me, and I have responded.
But that’s not all. “Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. We can therefore properly say as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history…They are ‘callings’ rather than the ‘calling.‘”
Perhaps our job is to do whatever we are doing, whether or not it is what we desired or expected to do, to the best of our ability and for the glory of God. Our callings will change at different stages of life – mine sure have – and God wants us to faithfully serve him at each and every point. I don’t think it matters as much what we do as how, and with what motivation, we do it.
My journey of vocation is still in progress. I’ll probably zigzag a few more times, but I will try to serve God in my job, family, church and community, and I believe that his purpose will be accomplished. And I’ll do my best to enjoy the journey!
Judy Allen is an Area Director with Community Bible Study, and she also writes and speaks with the goal of making the transformative truth of Jesus Christ more impactful in our daily lives. She blogs at connectingdotstogod.com and lives in the Chicago area with her husband and best friend, Dan.
For more from Judy on the subject of career shifts and vocation, visit her blog to read this post entitled “Mr. Magoo Years“.
If you use the link below to order the book Judy referenced in her post, your purchase will help support this website.