Sometimes you get surprised by what you expected. That’s what happened when I spent the last weekend of January at Sewanee, the University of the South, with the rest of the Nashville Fellows for our Vocational Calling retreat. We had Dr. Bill Fullilove from Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta (and a former Fellows director himself) and Suz Grimes (a representative for one of the aptitude/work tests we took) lead our retreat that helped us to identify where we thrive in work and how to find a job that lines up with our natural inclinations, gifts, and skills.
I came away so affirmed that I am where I should be. That’s nothing radical, but I think it was just having the confirmation that I’m on the right path, I’m striving after the right things, I’m honoring the Lord and stumbling two steps forward and one step back, and I’m leaning on Him to guide my steps.
I believe, for now, writing is absolutely my vocation, and I think for years I've wrestled with this idea of inadequacy in regards to my interests and passions. I knew I was passionate about writing and my faith but I really thought I kind of had to pick one – which meant I had to be noble and choose a career in vocational ministry if I really wanted to make an impact for the kingdom. But that's bad theology. There's a need for godly doctors and nurses and writers and lawyers and teachers just as much as there's a need for godly ministers of the faith. So instead of feeling like I was letting God down by choosing something "I" wanted instead of something I "believed" He wanted, I am finding that God is honored so greatly in my writing, no matter the form it takes on. It's like the scene in Chariots of Fire, which we watched over the weekend, where the main character, Eric Liddell, says, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure." I don't know if I have experienced this feeling to the degree Eric has, but I do feel God's pleasure in ways when I write. It happens naturally; almost without effort. God has gifted me to write, and to neglect and run from that would be a severe slap in the face of the plans God has for me. It's like choosing Gage's plans over God's plans when presented with the choice at the buffet line. I thank God for his ever-abounding patience with me.
And that's so freeing to me. It's like the bridle has been taken off. I don't have to worry about finding the exact perfect job, but instead can rest assured there's many jobs I can use to honor God in both word and deed that can help to reaffirm dignity in others and bring about redemptive restoration to a dying and broken world. Those are some of the sweetest words I've ever typed in my life. They put a smile on my face as I look back and read them.
We took three tests total, one that monitored how we work in team settings, one that identified a few good career paths we matched with aptitude-wise, and one that pointed out what specifically we enjoy about work and what roles we enjoy playing the most and for which reasons. It was affirming, mostly, to me because nothing really caught me off guard with the responses. I more or less nodded and let out a "hmm" after reading my report. It was spot on. And being able to identify some of these tendencies for me and putting some verbage on them was so key. I think I've known what I enjoy in work, and I know the roles I naturally gravitate toward, but for the first time I think I understood a little bit of the philosophy behind why I lean those directors.
And, I'll be completely honest, hiking through the hills of Tennessee with some of your best friends and just living life alongside one another in the mountains is always a sweet way to spend a weekend.
I think many of the Fellows are still pondering what’s next for them when they step out of the boat after Fellows, but I think each of us found a lot of comfort in knowing that we’re made in God’s image and gifted to make an impact on making all things new in this world. And if that’s not encouragement to step boldly into the unknown that awaits over the next few months, then I don’t know what is.