Vocation Soup

By Justin Rossow

“Vocation” (not “vacation”) is kind of a fancy word for “calling.” It comes from the same root as “vocal” or “voice.” You have been called by God into many different roles and relationships as you live your ordinary life. You have a variety of vocations as a worker or boss; a child or parent; a friend, neighbor, partner, citizen, and follower of Jesus.

All of my various callings ultimately come from God. I live out my faith in all of my vocations, by doing what I am called to do, to God’s glory, for my neighbor’s good, and to the best of my ability.

But it’s not always clear how those different callings all fit together. When we talk about “work-life balance,” we are asking about how different vocations fit together.

Often, we talk of “balance” as if we had a kitchen scale, and our job is to keep different areas of our life separate but equal: am I spending enough time with my kids, with my wife, with my friends? Am I working too many hours? Am I committed to regular times of Bible study, worship, and prayer? Do I get enough “me time?” What is the proper balance between rest, work, play, family, friends, and Jesus??

That important question doesn’t have a simple answer, but it can help you choose which next step to take. When you ask the compass question, “Where am I right now?” you will often find the answer varies depending on which vocation you have in mind. The emotions I feel about my work life may be very different from what I feel at home. My role as parent might be going swimmingly, while my role as spouse or neighbor or friend or follower of Jesus may be suffering.

You have so many possible next steps, in part, because you have so many different roles and relationships. That can be confusing. But noticing those different vocations can help.

If you are faced with multiple next steps that all seem good, but you can’t take them all at once, break them down into vocations. Then ask Jesus which of these roles and relationships he wants to focus on first.

If you don’t have clear marching orders, pick one and run with it. Just know that taking a next step as a parent will also do something in your relationship with your spouse; growing more faithful in prayer will also affect how you neighbor. All your vocations are related, because they are all gifts from God, to you, for the benefit of the people around you.

“Finding the right work-life balance” is more like flavoring soup than balancing scales. Your different vocations all mix together and affect each other. Sometimes they seem to be in conflict with each other. Sometimes you can’t even tell them apart. And focusing on one ingredient in the soup will affect the flavor of the whole. If you aren’t sure which of a thousand steps to take next, boil it down to a specific role, relationship, or calling. Then trust that moving forward in that area of your life will impact all your other vocations as well.

This blog is an excerpt from My Next Step: A How-To Companion for People Who Want to Follow Jesus (But Sometimes Get Stuck) Vol 3: Finding Your Groove.

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