Posted by: pmarkrobb | August 31, 2011


Being defined by what you do … It is so easy for others to do this to us, but it’s also something we can do to ourselves.  In our responsibility or drive to achieve and provide, we become inextricably associated with the “work of our hands”.  I come from the context of corporate America, but I am sure that you can confirm from other areas of vocation that work consumes an increasing measure of our time and attention.  The trend is upward, and I am not sure I see any break in that trend anytime soon.  These “truths” are at the root of a discontent I have struggled with for some time.

Recently, a brother-more-than-friend spontaneously bought me a book.  The book was Let Your Life Speak, by Palmer Parker, and it landed squarely in the lap of my growing discontent.  It immediately began to speak to me, and helped me begin to create a gap between what I do and who I am.  Early in the book I was introduced to a word I used a few sentences ago … vocation.  It’s a word that I thought I knew, but have since discovered otherwise.  It’s a word that I associated with “work” or “profession”, but I have come to learn these associations are only the foliage on the tree, not its trunk or roots.  Maybe you already knew this, but the word “vocation” actually has its roots in the Christian faith.  Bullets three and four in the word’s definition say, “a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.” and “a function or station in life to which one is called by God.”  The word vocation comes from the Latin word for “calling”.

I could go on for several more pages with what I have learned about the word, but suffice it to say that our modern vernacular has drawn the definition away from its roots.  Unless I am the exception, our modern understanding of the word is more consistent with the first two bullets in it’s definition: “a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.” and “a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.”   I find myself saddened at my ignorance of the word’s true meaning, but buoyed by the hope that this new discovery could bring to my life.  Back to the book … I found a particular quote of Parker’s challenging and encouraging.  On page 25 he writes…

Vocation at its deepest level is, “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.”

I found an echo of the vocation journey I have been on in the early portion of today’s daily Scripture reading.  Reading in The Message this morning, I arrived at the words of Ephesians 1:11…

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.

“Amen, Paul!”, cries my spirit.  While at the same time it is convicted of the truth that being defined by what I do is something I have slowly but surely done to myself.

When I began to read Let Your Life Speak, I began a small journal and titled it, “Journey to my sacred self.”  And over the weeks that have followed, I have recorded and doodled some revealing truths about the real me, and who I believe God made and gifted me to be.  I wouldn’t assume to suggest that you follow my same path, but I do encourage any of you who are struggling in a similar way, to sit a while with the words of Ephesians 1:11 and let them echo in your heart and mind.   We are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, and it is only in and through Him that we find “who we are“.  And it is only in the process of finding our true self that our life begins to pour out in streams of “what we are living for.”  In this we find our true self, our sacred self, our vocation.

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