Flat Pack Vocation?


The last few months have been hard work and for those friends who have offered support, love, thoughts and prayers, both of us are profoundly grateful. Naively, as it turns out, by now we thought that we would both know where we would be living and working after the summer. We didn’t expected to be where we are and having to contemplate the range of scenarios that now lie before us.

Whilst the experience has been unsettling, lonely, frustrating and painful (something I have written about in an earlier post) it has forced me to consider once again the nature of vocation and discernment. Since leaving the Queen’s Foundation in 2017, I have been working at the Susanna Wesley Foundation and in the Mid-Warks Circuit. It is never easy to combine two part-time jobs, particularly when they are 100 miles apart, but both have taught me a huge amount about the nature of vocation.

Vocation is a gift and not a task. It is about who you are and not primarily about what you do. I remember being at a preaching conference where Donald English asked: Do you still love God, or do you just work for him now? Because vocation speaks to us at the deepest levels of ourselves, it is complex and nuanced. Why wouldn’t it be? I know I long for simplicity and clarity, but then how would it relate to the jumble of contradictions that is my life?

Vocation comes from one who knows the authentic me and, for that reason, is hard for me to grasp. I hide from the reality of who I really am, fearful of disappointment perhaps, comfortable to live with the illusions of identity that I create for myself. Vocation cuts through the crap and calls me to look deeper, to put away the masks and love the self that is unconditionally beloved. To learn to be secure in being a beloved child of God is primary.

Vocation is the challenge not to be distracted. I know that I have been guilty of holy busyness, displacement activity that looks vocational but actually distracts me from taking God’s call seriously. I have tried to impress others in the Church through my knowledge and competence, my insight or passion, and always been disappointed that it never seemed to ‘work’. I have placed my trust in the wrong things and come away spiritually bruised. Vocation is a calling to authenticity that invites us to bring our deepest selves into relationship with God and others. It is what Henri Nouwen, echoing the Desert Mothers, Fathers and Parents, calls ‘the prayer of the heart’. My vocation is based on the belief that life truly flourishes when heart speaks to heart.

I struggle with the compulsion to be useful and te