Intercollegiate Review: How to Find Your Vocation in College - Gene Veith
... These are all struggles about your vocation. That word has become a synonym for “job,” so that colleges debate the extent to which higher education should be primarily vocational training or whether it should have higher goals, such as cultivating the intellect. But vocation is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” It is one of those theological words—like inspiration, revelation, mission, and vision—that has been taken over by the corporate world and drained of its meaning. The idea is that what you do for a living can be a calling. From God. That He has made you in a certain way and given you certain talents, opportunities, and inclinations. He then calls you to certain tasks, relationships, and experiences.
Your job is only a part of that, and sometimes not the most important part. We have vocations in the family (being a child, getting married, becoming a parent) and in the society (being a citizen, being a friend). There are also vocations in the church (pastor, layperson), but even if you don’t believe in religion, the vocations are operative. Not only that, according to Martin Luther, the great theologian of vocation, God works through vocation, including the work of people who do not believe in Him. God gives us our daily bread by means of farmers, millers, bakers, and the person who served you your last meal. God creates new life by means of mothers and fathers. He heals by means of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. He protects us by means of police officers, judges, and the military callings. He creates works of beauty and meaning by the talents He has given to artists.
The purpose of every vocation—in the workplace, the family, the church, the society—is to love and serve our neighbors. These are the “good works” that we are given to do. That may sound idealistic. Surely in our participation in the economy we are motivated by our enlightened self-interest. And yet it is surely true that if we are not helping someone by the goods or services we provide, we will not stay in business very long. Even our self-interests are taken up into God’s providential workings. In serving ourselves we also find ourselves serving others, whether or not that is our intention. Thus our work, our families, and our citizenship can be charged with moral and even spiritual significance. ...
... College students are often so fixated on what their future vocations may be that they forget that they have vocations right now.
Slinging burgers may be a dull and boring occupation with the sole purpose of earning tuition money. While it won’t be your vocation forever, it is still a calling, a sphere of service to one’s neighbors–customers, the boss, fellow workers—and a meaningful human enterprise.
College students also have a vocation as members of their family, with obligations to their parents, brothers, and sisters. They also have a vocation as citizens of the various communities they inhabit (their hometown, their college community, their state, their country). They also have vocations in their religious communities, if they have one.
Most notably, they have the vocation of being college students. This calling, like all the others, has its proper work—namely, to study, read, go to class, discuss ideas, and write papers. ...
Good stuff! In the popular vernacular we typically think of "vocation" as an "occupation." "Vocation," or "calling," is mission given to us by God. R. Paul Stevens talks about three vocations.
Human vocation - Doing all of those things we do that make our world run and contribute to human flourishing that God called us to do at creation.
Christian vocation - Caring on the work of Christ in the world.
Personal vocation - Our particular response to the first two vocations in our particular time and context.
Our occupation is an important application of our vocation but our occupation can change. It is only one among many possible applications. And vocation includes much more than our occupation.