Blog - Grasping Vocation


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Midway through my undergraduate years in Wheaton College, I married Sharon Cole of Seattle. The day after our wedding in her hometown, we started the 2,000-mile drive to Illinois. For the next three years, we made our home there. Sharon worked in Chicago, while I completed my college degree. After graduation, I worked as an editor/writer for Scripture Press Publications. We returned to the State of Washington in 1964.

Let me hasten to add at this point that Sharon has read and okayed what follows. Today, looking back on our time in the Midwest, Sharon recalls "pining,” because she missed her friends and family back home. (Webster explains that "to pine” is to yearn intensely and persistently.) Years later, when we visited Wheaton and the college campus, Sharon’s jaw dropped at the beauty she had been unable to see while living there.

I suspect many in the work world are enduring something similar, "pining” until they can retire. In his book, Working, Studs Terkel quotes a librarian who remembers what work meant to her dad: "My father was a mechanical engineer, hated every day of it. He couldn’t wait forty-six years, or whatever it was, until he retired.” Some see their work as having little more value than as a means of paying the bills.

Many Christians look forward to the time when, no longer tethered to a job, they may devote their time to "serving God. " In a recent survey of 41 Christians, 20 said they sometimes think God would be more pleased if they went to work in a church-related job.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest, said: "I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I say that nine out of ten practicing Christians feel that man’s work is always at the level of a spiritual encumbrance.”

But do we have to wait until retirement before the way we spend the bulk of our time is really significant? Is the first half (or three-quarters) of life nothing more than an earning spree to fund those years that finally count? If so—like Sharon in Illinois—we may miss out on the "life to the full” Jesus came to give us in every phase of our time on earth.

The Israelite exiles experienced something comparable living far away from home for 70 years in Babylon. They pined to return to the land God had promised to their people long before. So through Jeremiah, God sent them this message—several parts of which called for them to work:

"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jer. 29:5-7).

In other words: Stop pining! Put your whole heart into the place and the work God has given today. Don’t let the dream of lusher pastures in some far-off time or place cause you to miss the green grass all around you right now.

We don’t know what might have been causing Christian slaves in Ephesus to give less than their best to their daily work. But something in their situation must have prompted Paul to instruct them: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col. 3:23).

Whatever your work, you are surrounded with significance—right now, and not just "someday.” There are dark pockets needing light. Earth-stewarding tasks on hold for someone to do them well. Christians almost ready to give up for lack of encouragement. Unbelievers still waiting to see the gospel authentically lived out in the real world. Stresses and temptations put into your work life to strengthen the sinews of your faith. Don’t let pining blind you to those opportunities. Seize the day.

Comments (7)

Ron Steslow (5/18/2013 3:35:28 PM)
Larry this applies to so very many people I know. I even find my self thinking at what point do I stop...working! I am happy to be doing what I am doing now as it is very fulfilling but there were years when I complained about construction work and should have loved it more! I just didn't see! Thanks for the insights! I will share them with friends for sure. Ron
Henry Paasonen (5/18/2013 5:38:11 PM)
"Seize the day." Yes. Testimony: Retired, now at 73, I recall how I have sought in various ways -- through five rewarding vocational stages, first briefly in engineering, then in book publishing, in public relations, in pastoral ministry, &; in overseas missions -- to "seize the day". Interesting: In his faithfulness and gentleness, the Lord allowed me at each step to reach for and seek to "seize" in stumbling ways what he had already seized for me at that stage of vocational maturity. Looking back now, I can better catch something of his "conspiracy", to use a word from the title of Dallas Willard's book. The very real and actual kingdom reign of our risen Lord continues to invade my daily world, to seize and claim me -- often most unwillingly -- as a kingdom agent or ambassador of his grace wherever I happen to be and whatever I may even selfishly do. Whether I am directly aware of it or not, I am now convinced I cannot help being a bearer of his grace. Has he not told me, and you, clearly we are a "temple" building project in which he already dwells by his Spirit? I wish I had seen it more clearly earlier on that living now is living already in the incoming kingdom reality of all eternity. It has already "seized" me. Surely I can step out every day, receive and share the grace he gives for that day. Just yesterday it occurred to me again I can silently bless people the Lord may call me to bless by simply using the well-known blessing of Numbers 6. Does not the Word of God say each of us is a member of a "royal priesthood"? What can prevent me from blessing those the King brings into my life? Larry, here's a suggested title for your next book: JUST DO IT.
Shameka (5/18/2013 6:17:43 PM)
For all the articles that I have read that you have written, I can say that this is indeed timely and a great guidance to people like me who are always prone to thinking about the next thing...when we should be still and seize the now opportunity. Thank you for giving me the secret to living the abundant life.
Joy (5/19/2013 3:39:18 AM)

I thank our God for your commitment to continuing to share these insights with us. You will be encouraged to know that post-TOW when you were my Professor at BGU, am no longer pining!

Grace to you in Christ

Jana Jarvis (5/19/2013 4:36:31 AM)
Amen, dad! Remind me to tell you when I see you next month of a very real life example of this. Opportunities are everywhere. We just need to face or "seize" every day with open eyes and an open heart to the people and places that God puts in front of us. Any question of our purpose fades away when we see God take our "little" and make it much in someone else's life. Thanks for sharing that the significant is always there if we will only ask and then watch. Love you, dad!
Jon Bomers (5/19/2013 7:30:40 AM)
Larry, our men's group is reading/studying "The Cure", which touches the vein of this truth. As individuals we place a variety of masks over who we are and forgetting God knows us for who we are and truly can be just by being ourselves and not pining and doing what we think will garner redemption in his eyes. Great piece!

PS: It's been far too long since we've had coffee or spent the afternoon flying together ... I hope we can change that soon! Blessings - Jon
florine Dalgety (5/20/2013 3:07:17 AM)
I think I pined for things when I thought that what I was in didn't hold the best for me. Like pining for an overseas job that would pay more. Several years ago when I was offered a job in Nigeria that paid much more that what I was getting in Guyana. the Lord graciously showed me that I would not survive . . . .. I gave up that offer to the consternation of my friends who knew my financial situation. I do not regret that decision. I thank God for that lesson.

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