“For me, my work is such an expression of who God made me to be that it’s deeply satisfying. I’ve had so many great opportunities to express what I think are some of the gifts that God gave me…So I find my work really fulfilling.”
In a culture consumed by professional identity, we automatically ask each other, “What do you do?” or “Where you do work?” when we first meet. But we are much less likely to ask “Why do you do what you do?”, “How do you do your work?” or “Who are you because of what you do?”
Theologian James Fowler notes in an interview at the end of Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on their Vocational Quests that “Most adults…don’t claim the opportunity to talk about the strange quirks and the unanticipated ways in which the vocation they are living has taken form.”
While a sense of calling may motivate a professional’s career choice, rarely does it become the topic of water cooler conversation.
But efforts to tell stories about the deeper meaning of professional life are springing up in unexpected places.
The StoryCorps Project now devotes a whole section of its website to interviews about work. The New York Times runs a regular feature in its Jobs section called “Vocations,” in which a wide variety of professionals – including a massage therapist, a Radio Flyer wagon tester, a sea burial conductor, and a TV news anchor – share short stories about their careers.
Yet opportunities to share meaningful stories about professional life in the light of faith continue to be few and far-between. This is why the Lives Explored video story-telling series provides a powerful witness, both for the individuals who share their experiences of God’s call in their everyday work and for the Called to Work groups who use these videos as conversation catalysts.
To hear a woodworker, a baker, a communications specialist, or a teacher describe their sense of calling in relation to professional life invites the viewer to consider how their own work can be a response to God’s invitation.
Denise’s own words crystallize the connection between profession and vocation. Beyond the typical rote responses to “What do you do?”, she expresses how her sense of calling has illuminated the whole path of her career:
“The thing that I love about my vocation is that I have been able to do so many different things in it. It’s taken me places I never thought I’d go and I’ve met people and seen situations that I never imagined I would see or people I would meet. So it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Gail Godwin. She said something is your vocation if it keeps making more of you. I feel like the career path of being a lawyer, starting out in law school, has and keeps making more of me and stretching me in ways that I never imagined.”