Callings, Then & Now

“Before, no matter how hard they worked or how little they earned, farmers had always had at least the assurance that they were doing the necessary work of the world, and that before them others (most likely their own parents and grandparents) had done the same work, which still others (most likely their own children and grandchildren) would do when they were gone.  In this enduring lineage had been a kind of dignity, the dignity at least of knowing that the work you are doing must be done and that it does not begin and end with yourself.”

From time to time, I ask myself what my “calling” is.  What I am really asking is whether or not the day job I have at that particular stage of my life is what God wants me to be doing at that particular stage of my life.  Here’s one variation: “should I be doing this cross-border secured lending as outside counsel to this multilateral lending agency, or should I be in-house at that same multilateral or some institution like it, perhaps in its foreign office, directing more small scale projects that have more immediate poverty-reducing impact?”  It’s a type of question people ask of themselves from time to time, I suspect.  It’s just that, as a Christian, I want to be — and I am convinced I should be — doing what God wants me to be doing.

When I read the passage quoted above from Jayber Crow the other day, it hit me what luxury it is to entertain a realistic possibility of picking and choosing where and how I work.  It’s luxury that, even just a couple generations ago, wasn’t that readily available to most.  I suspect it isn’t that available even now for many in different socio-economic situations whether in the US or outside it.

Back then, if you were born to a farmer, then you were a farmer, and you raised your children to be farmers.  That was your calling.  You didn’t think too much about what other “callings” there might be for you to follow.  If you were inclined to be “humanitarian,” you were generous, perhaps, to the have-nots in your town, but you didn’t immediately think to join a non-government organization whose mission is poverty reduction and go off to some developing country to do “development assistance.”

Am I not giving enough credit to the aspirations and the complexity of the lives of the people of past generations?  Perhaps.

One more thing.  Now that I think about it, this makes what Apostle Paul and Barnabas did in setting out to be missionaries for Jesus to the Gentile world all the more amazing!