by Stephen R. Clark
Whenever the idea of Christian vocation is addressed in an article or conversation, there’s a well-known quote attributed to Frederick Buechner that almost always comes up: “Vocation happens when our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
Actually, as Buechner himself explained in an interview¹, it’s not a direct quote, but it captures the essence of what he was getting at.
As Christian writers, imbued with God’s image, we all want to know why we’re here. What we’re supposed to be about. For what purpose did God create us?
And we tend to spend a lifetime seeking “the” answer to that question.
In the meantime, we write and live and move and have our being, going about our days, doing our best to please God and enjoy Him for now and here, longing for over there.
This we call our Christian walk.
In the process of living our lives and doing our writing in the light of God’s Word, we seek to be better people. To be Spirit-filled, God-shaped, Christ-redeemed creations.
We care about those around us. Go to work and do our writing as well as we can. Give money to those in need. Do acts of service. Treat people well. Grow where we are planted.
As we do these things, our writing vocation and purpose take shape through our humble, clumsy service to God.
Perhaps we even recognize that our “purpose” is not singular, but rather a series of purposes, a multiplicity of callings. All, of course, anchored in Christ connected by His will flowing through us.
From time to time, our thoughts turn to heaven. “What’s that going to be like?” we wonder.
Honestly, I’m not sure Christianity has done a good job of revealing what heaven and the new earth will be like.
What it won’t be like is how it is cartoonishly characterized: you’re sitting on a cloud wearing a halo and wings strumming a harp. The Bible does, however, refer to us reigning with Christ. It mentions streets, cities, dwellings. All of this implies activity.
Frankly, I’m really hoping there will be books. I think there’s going to be a lot of time to catch up on my reading!
Foreshadowing the new earth
A couple of years ago I read a really great book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey. I strongly recommend the book to everyone.
On the topic of Christian vocation, Pearcey states, “In our work we not only participate in God’s providential activity today, we also foreshadow the tasks we will take up in cultivating a new earth at the end of time.”
As Spock would say, Fascinating!
This means we’re going to have stuff to do over there on the other side. Stuff for which we are perfectly suited, that fits to a T our created personalities, that extends our unique giftings into eternity!
Wowza! That sounds, well, darn fun!
And how we live now, all we do here on earth in this short time we have, prepares and shapes us for the rest of our eternal lives.
Holy vocational education!
Going back to Buechner, he explained, “When you are doing what you are happiest doing, it must also be something that not only makes you happy but that the world needs to have done. In other words, if what makes you happy is going out and living it up and spending all your money on wine, women, and song, the world doesn’t need that.”
This helps sift down the possibilities for us in terms of what we’re made for. Wanton carousing isn’t something this earth or the new earth needs.
Glorify and enjoy
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
In this we find further guidance when it comes to vocation as well.
We seek to do that which pleases God, serves Him and provides us a sense of enjoyment—joy, satisfaction, contentment—in the process.
Add in the context of Luke 10:25-37, where the double commands to “Love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself” are clarified in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Clearly, what we do must also benefit those around us.
So vocation is not about us having our fun, doing what we want, living our truth, even if it’s not hurting anyone else. How we live here on earth, what we do now, has eternal consequences.
And so our vocation doesn’t end at heaven’s gate, because death for the Christian isn’t an end. It’s a new beginning to a new life . . . and a truly glorious career!
So, how’s your on-the-job training going?