When someone comes to us with a book idea, one of the first things we ask the author is: Who is the intended audience? Who is this book meant for? When one writes for everyone, there is the danger it might engage no one. Last Saturday I had the joy of seeing my latest book launched, Discover Your Calling: The ABC of Vocational Discernment. Who is the intended audience for this book?
The basic idea for the book first emerged as part of my Fuller Theological Seminary DMin final project which I completed in 2006. The target audience was fresh graduates, those one or two years out of tertiary education. As they embarked on their work life, it seemed important that they had some clarity as to what work they should be doing.
Unless God gives you a direct miraculous call, vocational clarity is often linked to growth in self-knowledge, and we have discovered that, at their stage of life, young graduates are just beginning to understand who they are as they begin to take more responsibility for their own lives. However, it is still useful for fresh graduates to understand the subject of calling so they can begin to look for clues to their calling as they journey on in life. I suggest the three main clues are one’s primary ability, one’s main burden, and the critical life incidents that define us — the A, B, and C of our lives.
Gordon T. Smith, in his book Courage and Calling suggests that we have greater clarity about who we are when we reach our 30s. This presupposes that folks are living reflective lives where they continue to grow in their understanding of who they are and how God has hot-wired them. By their 30s most would have worked for about five years. Some may have gone through one or two job changes. They would have more data to mine for their A, B, and Cs. This is a good time to have greater clarity about one’s calling as it can help give a trajectory for one’s life going forward.
Hard to get a definition for mid-life but, perhaps, it begins in our late-40s. By then you would have lived a lot of life but still have a lot of life before you. It’s a time when many take stock of their lives, looking at what has gone on before and making decisions about what they want to be doing going forward. They want to check if the ladder they are climbing was against the right wall.
I recommend that we do our vocational discernment with the help of a mentor and check our thinking with some mature friends who know us and who can be counted to tell us the truth. This should be true of vocational discernment at any stage of life but maybe particularly important at mid-life when we have much more history to sift through a journey that might highlight painful and difficult moments.
The Third-third of Life
With better healthcare and better diets, many of us can expect to live into our 70’s or even our 80s. I was pleasantly surprised that a number of my friends were helping folks in their 60s and beyond to help clarify their vocations. More aware now of the preciousness of life, many want to end well and want to spend the rest of their days doing what the Lord wants them to do. Our circumstances are different and we all age differently, but there will be a growing group of people who have loads of life experience and time, and some with significant financial resources, too. Many would be retired from their jobs by then and perhaps also free of many family responsibilities. This could be the time when they are free to fully pursue their callings.
An Invitation to All
So, though I started thinking about vocational discernment with young graduates in mind, I am delighted to find out that the question of vocation is one that we visit and revisit at different chapters of life.
Some key verses that guide our ministry are these:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8–10 NIV)
These verses put vocation in its place. We are saved by grace through faith. We are not saved because we discover our vocation and pursue it. The subject of vocation should not be one that causes anxiety. But as members of God’s community, we should embark on the adventure of discovering what are the the works that God has prepared for each one of us to do. It is a journey of discovering our uniqueness, how God has hot-wired each of us, and to be a good steward of that uniqueness for the glory of God and for the benefit of others.
Browse the book here