I started working when I was 8 years old, and have worked ever since. Just ask my sons. They’ve had to hear my ‘work narrative’ over and over since they were young.
Now juxtapose that with the other narrative that I have shared with them for as long as the first: my goal is to never work.
Inconsistent…Irreconcilable…paradoxical, you may say. Certainly on the surface. However, it all has to do with my core understanding of the difference between vocation and work.
Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:
a : activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform
b : activity that a person engages in regularly to earn a livelihood people looking for work
a : a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action; a calling
All the ‘jobs’ I have done from a very early age have been opportunities for me to use my gifts, my passions, my creativity. Sometimes this took the shape of very strenuous physical activity and other times it would appear as if I was sent to just play games. None have felt like ‘work.’
This last Sunday, the CBS Sunday Morning show did a feature on Marvin Windows – owned by one of our fine Minnesota Episcopalians. My favorite line was a quote from a 32 year employee that illustrates what I’m suggesting. “What we do doesn’t define what we are,” Jensen said. “It’s who we are that defines what we do.”
Recently I had the opportunity to share this perspective with some individuals in the ordination process. I suggested to this group that what they are discerning and seeking formation for is a calling and not a job, career, or work. You will be called to use your gifts in many contexts. I believe that it is absolutely the same for those called to live out their gifts as a lay person.
When I suggest that my goal is to never work, what I am seeking is to bring my gifts and passions to every situation I find myself in. I believe this is the vocational life we are all called to.