Continuing the conversation

By Dan Nimlos, Bethel Seminary St. Paul

Solving the Puzzle of Yourself

My career at this point in my life has not had a clear trajectory, to say the least. I’ve been in retail sales, shipping and receiving, music, transportation, church ministry, and higher ed administration, just to name the biggest categories. I’d spent a lot of time working in jobs without having a vocation (from the Latin word for “calling”). I learned that finding a job is relatively easy; knowing one’s capital-C Calling is a different thing entirely.

Maybe this describes you as well: it can feel like your life is a puzzle, and you’re trying to figure out how these pieces come together… and also you have no idea what the picture is supposed to look like.

Not only can discerning one’s Calling be difficult, the work itself can be difficult and frustrating, even if you’re in the right job.

Your Personality Test Results Came Back Negative

I’ve done my fair share of career exploration. Many of you are familiar with the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. (We talk about it at Bethel a lot). Basically, it’s a way to help you figure out your strengths (they call it your Top 5), as well as some insights into how to apply them. My top strength is Input. “Yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting,” says Gallup. Well, that’s good, right?

I’ve also taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; I’m an ENFP. When I went to to learn more about it, this phrase caught my eye: “If there’s a challenge ENFPs face when selecting a career, it isn’t that they lack talent or options or drive, it’s that there are so many things out there that are just cool.” While confirming what I already knew was helpful, it doesn’t really help me figure out my Calling. How do you pick “the right one?”

More Questions than Answers

As a first-year seminary student, it’s safe to say I have more questions than answers regarding career and Calling. One thing I do know, however, is that God deeply cares about the work I do. As believers, we hold that Christ is supposed to be the Lord of all our life. As it’s been estimated, we spend over 100,000 hours of our life at work, we should be mindful of how our faith impacts that time.

Timeless and Timely Truths

The study of faith and vocation, like the Gospel itself, is both ancient as original sin and current as today’s news. As we search for meaning in our jobs, hoping to see Christ in all of life, we’re not alone. Scholar David Miller says, “This modern quest for integration has ancient theological roots.” Martin Luther, as mentioned by Pastor Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavor, compares our daily work to masks that God uses to hide behind in order to care for us and others. In Luther’s eyes, parents giving chores to their children is how God relates to us in our work. As he sees it, parents are not merely giving their children something to occupy their time or forcing labor upon them; they are instilling character that will pay dividends over time. As the old saying goes: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”

God uses our work to give us not just our daily bread, but also the things we need to flourish on this earth. William McGurn, in Is the Market Moral?, notes, “What gives work its dignity is that human beings add something of themselves to the things of the earth, in a co-creation with their Creator. Jesus himself was a carpenter.” Part of Jesus’ calling for most of his life was to “make really good tables,” to quote Dorothy Sayers. This takes this stream of thought beyond the Reformation, back to Jesus, and ultimately back to the beginning of the world! This gives me hope.

Now What?

Let me leave you with some of the lessons I’ve been taught from the Colloquy. You’ve been designed this way for a reason. There is no part of your life thus far that God can’t redeem, including your work. As we serve the Lord in our work, we serve each other. Wherever you are, be all there. Also, it’s not worth comparing your own journey to that of others. Just because your cousin wanted to be a doctor since she was four years old and now actually is one does not mean you’ve wasted your life, even though you wanted to be an astronaut. (Hypothetically speaking.)

Image © Hans |

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