What is vocation?
Our vocation is “called” forth from us. All of us are called to participate in God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. We express our vocation through the ways we choose to live our lives; in our work, activities, relationships; and in our commitments to our church, community, and the broader world.
At SPU, we are called to be people of competence, character, and wisdom, and to model grace-filled community. It is God’s voice that calls us, and vocational discernment is learning to recognize that call, that vocation, in our everyday lives — to engage our head, heart, and soul through three channels: prayer, reflection, and community.
Regular prayer is a part of our everyday calling. Both communal prayer and personal prayer practices help us to grow more aware of God in our daily lives, and listen more carefully to God’s voice. Prayer allows us to stop and quiet ourselves, to give thanks, ask forgiveness, lift up needs and desires, and rest in God’s comforting presence. In prayer, God transforms us and prepares the ground for our calling to emerge.
We learn from reflecting on what we read, study, and experience. Our self-reflection provides a deeper understanding of who we are and helps us learn more about and grow deeper in our relationship with God. Reflecting on particular categories of questions can promote the personal knowledge needed to help us grow in our response to God’s call:
- Dreams and aspirations. What inspires me? What are my dreams? What is deep and not yet fulfilled in my life? The Holy Spirit works within us to call us toward our vocation.
- Passions. What have been my moments of deep joy? When did I feel most alive, have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, God, creation? We discover our meaning and purpose when we reflect on our everyday experiences.
- Skills and gifts. What comes naturally to me? When have I had the greatest sense of and expression of my skills and gifts? Discerning our gifts helps us to identify our unique contribution.
- Needs of the world. What do I know of the poor and suffering? What needs have taken hold in my heart? Discerning our response to the world’s needs helps us to explore our vocation.
In listening and responding to God’s call, the insights of others can help. Asking open-ended questions of mentors, teachers, family and friends can offer a valuable perspective:
- What do you see as some of my gifts?
- When have I appeared most joyful and fulfilled?
- How do you see me helping to build God’s kingdom or contributing to the common good?
Vocational discernment is a slow, deliberate process that can continue for a lifetime. Our vocation will develop through experience and by discovering new contexts in which to express our gifts and passions. The goal of seeking our vocation is to live it out in the world, avoiding the traps of perfectionism, inertia, and fear.
Our vocation is the everyday expression of our love for God. We are made of love and for love. Our vocation is not as much about what God wants us to do — though it is about that — as it is about being the voice of Christ, guided by the Spirit of consolation, cultivating peace, joy, and well-being, as we love and serve in the world.