It had filled my life for twenty-four years. That's most of my adult life. It consumed almost all of my conversations. It cultivated many of my relationships, and it filled many dream boards and goal setting sessions my husband and I had. It consumed every fiber of our being until one day it just didn't. It was our best work as two people devoted to ministry in the local church. It's been one year since leaving that occupation. A transition from "this is all we've done" into a year of "we've never done this before." With lots of good therapy and a great family support my husband and I were able to see this longstanding passion in our life lose it's flame without feeling like we had, too.
Each of us is called to be someone and to do things – it is part of human existence – and discovering these things is a life-long process of growth and change. For Christians, the word “calling” has biblical implications. Over the years and in my own life and understanding, christian culture has attached differing implications to the word “vocation.” The original meaning of “vocation”is defined as work that calls us to connect our God-given gifts and passions with God’s activity in the world. A vocation is a calling that merges our mission in life with God’s mission on earth. As Frederick Buechner puts it.
“The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
That intersecting point is your calling, your vocation.
Vocation and calling are literally the same words, one Latin and one Greek, and mean the deeper, longer story of one’s life, the commitments and passions, the gifts and skills, the loves and longings that make us “us.” Occupation is different. This describes the particular relationships and responsibilities along the way of life that we “occupy” as our vocations and callings are deepened and clarified.
In the now, but not yet world that we live, there is always discord between what we feel we were “made for,” and what we do day by day. In everyone’s life there is this lack of harmony. "It cannot not be." "But wait…I have been this! Now I am this!" "And yet I can no longer do this…. so then, who am I?"
When my transition out of the occupation I had done for so many beloved years came to an end, I realized that though my occupation-- my roles, my responsibilities, the vehicle by which I exercised my God-given gifts had changed, my vocation did not. My commitment to be in right relationship with God and guide others to do the same remained. My voice for truth became louder than ever. My desire to declare worth in the life of every individual and community I encountered didn't go away. And my leadership still pointed people up, to take next steps for a better life. We are called into a good story and so there are tears and laughter, sorrow and joy—like your life and mine. It is our occupations that change; vocations are ours for life.