Sunday, March 8, 2009

reworking the idea of "career"

Back when I was in theology school, they taught us the standard definition of "Providence": God's everyday, common activity in the world to accomplish His will, in contrast to the miraculous.

While miracles get most of the spotlight, I think Providence deserves more credit than we usually give it for the everyday outworking of God's will for our lives.

It's not really anyone's fault, but I grew up with a limiting view of vocation and calling. "God's will" was nebulous, single-minded, all-important, and somewhat elusive. You were aiming your life at a tiny, tiny hole, and you were asked to do this at the ripe old age of 18 or 21. Which career? Which major? Which person to date? Which job? Pressure mounted because it all seemed to rest on you. Yes, God was in charge of your life, but He wasn't going to come down there to write your major on that college application. So get out the divining rod.

God's directives for our lives are brilliantly simple and empowering (but not easy):
Love God with all you've got.
Love your neighbor sacrificially.
Take the Gospel everywhere you go.
Give your life to the ministry of reconciliation -spreading the healing effects of the Gospel into every institution, family, nation, industry.

In truth, I'm able to work out all 4 of those commands in a variety of ways. My own gifts and talents lead me toward certain actions or jobs because they fit my interests. I think God is pleased when we serve Him in any number of ways and enjoy Him via life. And I think God spends most of His energy directing us via the natural course of life events, not by writing us special messages in the sky. It's His loving Providence, not the miraculous, that illuminates our pathway.

We need to free our children from the tyranny of the American dream. The world expects them to know by age 18 what they are good at and what kind of job they'll do for 40 years. Really?!

Some kids are lucky enough to know by age 12 what they want to do with their lives. Great! They are fortunate. But a well-educated human being who has developed her talents as well as strengthened her weaknesses will probably find herself sampling a variety of careers throughout life. Our world is too fluid to be otherwise.... and those of us who prepare teens for college or co-eds for life need to remember this.

I educate my students for life, not for their freshman year of college. The skills of critical reading, sharp thinking, clear communication, organization, resource management and the like -- everything our upper school curriculum is crafted to instill in students -- are LIFE skills. To "present every child complete in Christ" is to take the long view of their education; to invest in their humanity. Image bearers might well end up on an assembly line ... but their "productivity" in society does not determine their worth to humanity.

Springtime makes the think of graduation, rightly called "commencement" because our educational founders realized that school is not an end in itself. We educate children to launch them like arrows into the battle of seeing the Kingdom take hold on Earth. Grace-full education polishes the natural grain in a child, buffs out the weaknesses, and sends them forth prepared with far more than intellectual knowledge.

Arrows can be aimed, but in the end they will fly according to the bent their Maker gave them.

1 comment:

  1. I know this is one you and I have talked about before... I swear a lot of the fault lies in the God's will ='s bulls-eye idea. There is only ONE "God's best" for you (by implication if you miss that you're screwed), whether it's vocation, mate, location, etc., etc. It puts believers in SUCH bondage.

    Constantly spending time wondering if this thing that I want to do is REALLY what God has for me. 'Cause if I want to do it, that can't be God's will, right? (Like eating spinach vs. dessert as a kid--If I like it, it must be bad for me.) He'll say "NO" just because I want to, right??

    We're so hung up on God-as-billy-club holder that we ignore His goodness & His generosity--He loved us before we loved Him. He wants the best for us, yes... but that's not necessarily our idea of what we think He'd like (missionary in a "difficult" land). It might blow their little minds to realize He wants to redeem ALL facets of life.

    That artificial separation between "sacred" and "secular." It's not the vocations that are sacred, it's us--we are the saints. It's His presence in us that sanctifies the vocation, right?

    The non-reformed have an even lower view of Providence me thinks. You see it in education, I keep seeing it in church. Performance-based grace sucks... principally because it's not grace... but before I go off any further on that tangent I'll shut up.