My Vocation

“I mean,” she said, looking down at her shuffling feet, “how did you know you were supposed to be a pastor?”

And there it was: The question she’d been dying to ask . . . the thought she’d had long before she walked into my office and that finally had been lent voice.

Of course, what she was really asking wasn’t, “How did you know that you were supposed to be a pastor?” but rather, “How do I know what I am supposed to do with my life?”

The search for meaning and direction in life did not begin with this young woman, and would not end with her. But it was to her as if she were the first person to ask this question, because of its utmost significance for her life.

As Lutherans, we have a living theology around this kind of vocational question. But, somehow, it has given way to occupational language. While children are asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Lutherans have a different question: “How is God using you in the world?” When the vocational question gets edged out in favor of the occupational one, the way one spends one’s time (occupation) and the way one lives out the Gospel call (vocation) can be set in contrast to each other.

The church is at a point in history (or, rather, has returned to the place in the cycle of history) where the theology of the priesthood of all believers is at the fore. Luther’s intent was not that everyone would exercise the role of pastor before a congregation but that every Christian would recognize his or her call from God: to hear the Gospel message and respond with his/her whole life, proclaiming unconditional love to the whole world in his or her own setting.

How did I know that God would use me as a pastor? I began with a conviction that God would use me, having called me in my baptism. Then, my sense of following the Spirit’s prompting, and the affirmation of my sense of call by other members of the church, led to this expression of my baptismal vocation.

Where can baptismal vocation lead? Faithful parenting, honest accounting, responsible housekeeping, public ministry . . . Whatever one does faithfully and wholeheartedly that hastens the Kingdom of God is one’s vocation.

How is God using you in the world?