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By Peter W. Marty

A Lutheran Christian life for today

The sweet spot of vocations Calling is grounded in knowing that origin, destiny reside in God

and my energies? Does who I am matter to anyone else? These are questions of vocation or call. They supersede the quest we


sometimes engage in to busy ourselves. They are ponderings that have little to do with an occupation, profession or even a career. As ethicist William F. May once pointed out, the words “car” and “career” both come from the Latin word for racetrack—carrera. Who wants to go through life racing around in a circle? A calling is much more considerate than that. There is no career called “liberator of slaves” and no profession called

“mother of God.” Yet we know both Moses and Mary were called by God to a very special purpose. Each was blessed with something greater than aptitude or skill. God gave them gifts for their separate callings, gifts that would necessitate both sacrifice and faithfulness. In our own lives, we seek to listen for the voice (vocare) of God, hop- ing that God might touch us with purpose as God did Moses and Mary. We want to know how to make the most of our lives. We hunt for hints and clues. On our worst days, we hear little more than the subjective whisper-

ings of our own hearts. We mistake the verbal echo of our own desires with the deeper intentions of God. We see what we want to see and stop listening to what we don’t want to hear. On these uncooperative days, we enshrine selfishness, believing that our calling is mostly about our own enjoyment.

On our best days, we look for that sweet spot of what we love to do, do reasonably well (or are determined to do well), and are pretty certain the world needs. We start to notice the way God stitches capacities, passions and potential into our quite ordinary lives. We become convinced that we must use our lives in some way that better reveals the grace of God. We aim to center our commitments on a greater good than just ourselves. We notice others. We get a burning desire to serve. Lutheran Christians make a big deal of vocation. We understand that

there are not specially sanctified occupations. We recognize that discern- ing one’s calling in life is a complicated business. Self-perspective can be hard to come by. But through the journey of uncovering God-given gifts and unfolding the surprises of life, we learn that acting on the outside in ways that are congruent with faithful convictions on the inside is the only way to go.

If you are ever wondering what it is really like to experience a true

calling, just be ready for the next time you find yourself totally absorbed in something. Your energy is high. You have lost all sense of time. Your passion is unmistakable. A great sense of satisfaction has overtaken you. This is typically when we experience one of the greatest possible luxu-

ife would be strangely hollow if we didn’t ask ourselves, at least on occasion: What exactly should I do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose on this planet? Am I doing the right thing with my days

ries in life—the inability to know for sure whether we are working or doing something else altogether. In the Chris-

tian life, one’s calling is always grounded in the deep sense of knowing that our origin and destiny reside in God. We

need to know where we’ve come from and where we’re going if we are to discover our vocation, relax into it and plot meaningful moves. Jesus did something incredible on his last night of earthly living. John announces it in this way: “Jesus, knowing that … he had come

from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet ...” (John 13:3-5). It was the personal knowledge of where he came from and where he was headed that enabled this humble service. Was foot wash-

ing a profession? An occupation? A career? No, it was none of these. It was rather the sweet spot where his identity and God’s desire converged. M

Marty is a pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Daven- port, Iowa, and the author of The Anatomy of Grace (Augsburg Fortress, 2008).

Lutheran Christians make a big deal of vocation. We understand that there are not specially sanctified occupations. We recognize that discerning one’s calling in life is a complicated business.

March 2011 3

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