Posted by: pmarkrobb | May 23, 2016

it’s not my job

Being defined by what you do … It is so easy for others to do this to us, but it is also something we can do to ourselves.  In our deep sense of responsibility or the drive to achieve and provide, we can become inextricably associated with the “work of our hands”.  And lest this be judged solely as a “corporate America” sort of problem, I believe this touches every area of vocation.  Our “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.

Several years ago, a brother-more-than-friend spontaneously bought me a book.  The book was titled Let Your Life Speak (by Parker J. Palmer), and it landed squarely in the lap of a growing discontent I had shared with him.  It immediately spoke to me, and helped me begin to see the essential distinction between what I do and who I am.  Early in the book I came across a word I mentioned in the third sentence of this post … vocation.  It’s a word I thought I knew, but have since discovered otherwise.  It’s a word that I associated with “work” or “profession,” but have since learned these associations are only the foliage on the tree, they are 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 definition say:

  • a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
  • 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 our modern vernacular has drawn the definition away from its roots.  Unless I am the exception, our understanding of the word is more consistent with the first two bullets in the dictionary definition:

  • a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
  • a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.

I found myself saddened by an ignorance of the word’s true meaning, but buoyed by the hope the new discovery brought to my life.

On page 25 of his book, Mr. Palmer offers his own definition of vocation.  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 the roots of the reasons in the words of Ephesians 1:11 (MSG) …

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

“Yes, Jesus!”, cries my spirit.  “It is not my job or the things I do as a husband, father or friend which define me.”

When I began reading Let Your Life Speak, I started a small journal and titled it, “Journey to my sacred self.”  Over the years that have followed, I have written and sketched some revealing truths about the “true” me (who I believe God made and gifted me to be).  I wouldn’t presume to suggest that you follow my same path, but I do encourage this essential conversation with God to discover who He has made and uniquely gifted you to be.  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 the streams of “what we are living for.”  In finding your vocation (what your true and sacred self was knit together by God to do), you may just find that it’s not your job.  You may also find new hope that your “job” and your vocation are closer than you expected.



  1. Thanks for the reminder. Even though I am retired from my job I will never retire from my vocation. Thank You Father, Your mercies are new every morning!

  2. Vocation…….a calling…….something I can’t not do! 🙂

    Reminds me of a Study on Biblical Manhood that describes 3 Male Battlefields – tendencies of masculine depravity.

    1.) Passivity – avoid domestic responsibility
    2.) Rule/Lead wrongly over women and children
    3.) Get lost in careers and lose sight of their transcendent cause – “vocation”

    Enjoyed being reminded of that. Thanks 🙂

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