How can I serve God and still pay my bills? A University student posed this question to me as we waited to package meals for the homeless. I nodded in sympathy, he wasn’t the first to ask this question.
We went on to discuss what it looks like to live out our beliefs through action. We want to act on our calling. However, if I’m called to serve meals to the homeless, I may end up doing nothing else and become homeless myself. Where’s the balance (and did I really need a college degree for that?)?
Our culture asks a lot of questions about career versus calling. We want to know our purpose, our reason for being. We also want stability, to live in hope that our bills will be paid, food will be on the table, and we can take a vacation every once in a while.
I believe that our career and calling aren’t necessarily the same. A career is what we do. A calling is who we are.
I remember going to dinner with a church leader and talking about this very thing. As I caught him up on my life, I mentioned that I began another application for grad school. “I feel like I’m being drug into grad school, kicking and screaming”, I said, as I held back tears. With compassion, my friend responded, “is that the way God usually works in your life?”.
Those words hurled my anxiety into the Cumberland River. As we talked about what I thought I was supposed to do with my life and how I felt like I was failing, my friend continued with these words, “your career doesn’t have to be your calling. Your career can help you accomplish your calling.”
Well, that’s a different way of thinking.
With this logic, I could be “called” to rescue slaves, but I don’t have to be Aaron Cohen. I could work at a fast-food restaurant to pay my bills, and fight slavery on nights and weekends. Or, I could be the CEO of a high-profit company, and give my money to people like Cohen, as well as make sure that my company practices fair trade.
I never went to Grad school, by the way. While I agree that it would be a good idea, every time I consider it, I can’t go through with it. Instead, I choose to practice my skills on small scales, learning as I go and giving all I can.
I’m convinced that we all play a role in the significance of the world. I’m also convinced that our “calling” isn’t keeping itself a secret from us. You already know who you are and what you were meant for. Go, and do that thing.