Faithfulness Over Balance: When Your Various Vocations Collide

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It’s a tug of war, sometimes. It’s a juggling act other times. These various calls we have, at times, tend to be at odds with each other. The board meeting is during our son or daughter’s sports play offs. We are asked to serve at church, but have just gotten back into town after a long week of travelling for work. Spouses see each other late at night or early in the morning like ships passing – going through the highlight reel of the last few days only to return again to the fullness of life the next day.

We all have these various vocations we are called into, to embody in love. These are the places we’re called to serve, the people we are to influence and be influenced by, the spaces where God places us to experience him, and worship him for all his goodness. But what happens when these callings are seemingly in opposition to each other? What happens when what we’re called to doesn’t seem to fit with our other callings?

Some have gone about talking about this through the language of work/life or work/family balance. I’m not sure that balance is a helpful word for the Christian. Balance ensues that all our time, our efforts, and our energy will be poured out in equal amounts, and that somehow we will reach a place where all these roles and calls are working in harmony with each other as a result of giving ourselves equally to them. One could chase after balance, could seek to find balance their whole lives, and never achieve it.

The language which may be more helpful to seek to embody is that of faithfulness. Asking not, how can I juggle or balance my various callings? But, how can I be faithful to God, as a reflection of his faithfulness to me, in the work God has called me to, in the passions he’s placed in my heart, in the church God has placed me in, in the family God has blessed me with, and in the friendships God has orchestrated in my life?

 

Faithfulness in our various callings can be embodied through honing in on several things.

  1. Recognize your first call is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We each have been called out of our sin, our selfishness, our narcissism, and called into the self- sacrifice, love, and care of Jesus. Our primary calling is to enjoy, deepen, and embody the relationship that Jesus is cultivating in our lives with HIMSELF.

This will happen in and through your other vocations, certainly, but the call first and foremost for the Christian is to follow Jesus’ example of love, service, and building of God’s kingdom on the earth. All other callings must fit under this call to Jesus himself, or our lives will be out of faithful alignment with what God has in mind for us.

How are you answering the call of Jesus to follow him today? This week? This year?

 

  1. Vocations are seasonal.

We may be called to serve in a various workplace or industry for a time. For some this may be a long time, like those who work in a company for 25+ years. For others it may be a few months or years. However and whatever that season is in length, we are called to be faithful for the season.

Even the retiree who leaves after 25+ years will be called by God to another calling, even if their paid work experience is over. Every season of call, things look differently. While at the beginning of your career you may have had young kids, as you get into the middle or late part of life, those children will require less of you, and you will be released to serve (time wise) in different ways. While in the middle of your career you may be travelling a lot, later on you may be able to stay more centralized, opening up your life to new avenues in that time and space. What we are called is to, is to be faithful in the season God has us in.

Thinking seasonally about our vocations releases us to be present where we are. Thinking seasonally about our vocations also helps us narrow down what we are ACTUALLY called to, and not just what would just be a ‘good’ thing for us to do.

What does it look like for you to be faithful at work in this season? What does it look like for you to be faithful at church in this season? What does it look like to be faithful to your family, spouse, children, or friends during this season?

 

  1. Enlist help.

We can’t all do it all and have it all. This is a lie our culture has enticed us to believe. When we follow the call of Christ in faithfulness, he doesn’t ask us to do everything, but he does ask us to do some things well and in the spirit of faithfulness. This may mean that you need to ask for help in order to fulfill the call God has placed on your life.

This can be hard, but maybe thinking of it this way will help: Asking for help may allow someone else to fulfill one of his or her vocations. Serving you or your family may be a call God places on someone’s life. Someone may be gifted by God with the love of children and can faithfully serve him through loving your kids while you are working or serving the church or giving to your marriage. Someone may be gifted with the joy of making meals- feeding you or your family may be a practical way for someone to use their gifts, giving you the extra time you need to be faithful in the ways God is calling you. Someone may have expertise in an area that you are lacking in at work. Enlisting their help, support, or advice may enable you to work in your calling in a faithful way that you couldn’t have otherwise.

What do you need right now to faithfully fulfill the call God has placed on your life? Who can you enlist to help?

 

  1. Give up the ‘shoulds’ and discern what you are actually called to.

Sometimes our vocations collide because life has schedule conflicts. But other times our vocations collide because we have said yes to too many things. Where we are called, God provides for us to fulfill those callings. Where God doesn’t call, we may find ourselves striving to make things work or for the pieces to fit into holes they never were meant to fit into.

When we say yes to something, we are always saying no to something else. If you are finding yourself saying yes to things out of obligation rather than out of a sense of God’s call, this may be why your vocations are colliding. Doing something because you ‘should’ do it shouldn’t be confused with God calling you to do it. Discerning these things can be tricky, but if you are finding more conflicts in your schedule and you are having to say no to the things and the people you are called to first, maybe it’s time to take an inventory of your calls and see which are from God and which are being done out of sheer obligation or guilt.

What in your life do you feel you ‘should’ be doing? Is it bringing you a sense of God’s provision, peace and joy? Or is it a weight you’re trying to make fit into the rest of your life?

 

  1. Live joyfully within the constraints you’re given

Each season we are called to be faithful in will come with, what Kate Harris has aptly described as, constraints. We can’t do it all. We aren’t called to do it all. But when we accept the limitations of the season we are in, this frees us up to live in joyful presence of God and those he’s called us to.

Some may see constraints as something to overcome, something to break out of, and something that holds us back. But Harris describes constraints as boundaries that hold the capacity for us to be creative within. When we don’t have all the time in the world, we are more focused. When we know we won’t be with our kids or roommates or spouses the next day, due to work commitments, we are able to live within that constraint and be truly ‘with’ them today. When we know our limits we can delegate and call on other’s resources to collaborate on projects with. Constraints hold the power of God to release us to embody the love and grace of our Savior in specific, pointed, and placed ways.

What constraints do you have in this season? How are those helpful to you? How could they be transformed to become creative outlets for your faithfulness in vocation?

 

Thinking through, praying through, and talking through these things can clarify your calls in the current season you find yourself in; enabling you to live freely and embody the love of Christ with the endeavors and people God wants you to be present with- now.

What will help you clarify the most now?

Shannon is the Program Coordinator for the Cascade Fellows Program. She believes that if God meets us anywhere, it's right smack dab in the middle of our ordinary lives. Shannon is mom to Declan and Koen, and wife to Dan, a pastor. A transplant from San Diego, she speaks and writes on the topic of finding God in the ordinary, and loves living in rainy Seattle. She holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Azusa Pacific University and a MDiv from Bethel Seminary.

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