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Follow Your Passion, Not Your Career Path
Frederick Buechner famously told us to look for our calling in the place “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Often, we think of this as finding the right job category and then plunging into work as a business person or doctor or teacher or mechanic.
But finding joy in our work takes more than just finding a job that lets us use the knowledge or skills that we have enjoyed learning. Once we enter the working world, we quickly realize that there are many ways to use the same set of abilities.
I know two nurses. One finds great joy serving in a hospice and offering tender care to the dying. The other works in the burn ward of a children’s hospital and helps little ones on the road to recovery. But neither of them can imagine how the other works where she does. “How can you work as a nurse where all your patients die?” asks the one. “How can you bear seeing little children suffer without curling up in a ball and crying all day?” asks the other. Each would be miserable in the other’s job, even though they are both nurses.
So how do we find out which particular job God wants us to take? One of the most cosmically grand verses in Scripture provides some very practical help:
“All things have been created through Christ and for Christ . . . and in him all things hold together. . . . For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things.”
To put it another way: any job that advances God’s work in the world is a godly choice. As Martin Luther pointed out, if we pray “Give us today our daily bread,” how can we say that the work of the baker is not as much God’s work as is the work of the pastor? We’re even given the freedom to choose which type of baker to be—the God we serve likes whole wheat as well as baguettes and matzos.
This means we can choose the particular job that we most enjoy, the one that we find energizing, not enervating.
In the Parable of the Talents, the Master wants us to make the productive use of what he gives us, but he leaves it up to us to find our own particular way to be productive. In other words, we shouldn’t tie ourselves in knots over which job is “God’s will.”
God knows that if we are passionate and fulfilled in what we do, we will be most creatively engaged in our work as colaborers with Christ. St. Augustine put it like this: “Love, and do whatever you like.” If we only took the second part of the phrase to heart, then we might think it okay to use our God-given abilities to advertise cigarettes or engineer landmines. But the first part of that phrase—“Love”—ensures that our working lives will “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
We will find that we most delight in doing precisely what God most needs us to do.
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