Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Service . . . Our Calling

Chapter Seven
A Mended Heart and the Deep Meaning of Happiness

     ... We all have strengths and weaknesses according to the way God has designed us. Our daily tasks fall into place as we discover what we are to do to fulfill God's specific purposes for our lives. He has given each of us a part to play, one for which we are ideally casted. We take our places on the stage of life, make our entrances and exits, and fulfill the roles God has given to us, however illustrious or lackluster, lucrative or unprofitable, they may be. In short, we have callings to fulfill. How should we define the notion of "calling"? According to Os Guinness, it is the idea that "God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service."

     Puritan writer William Perkins has noted that everyone has a distinctive vocatio or calling from God, and that this calling constitutes the central purpose of our lives that we must find and fulfill. Simultaneously, we serve both God and human beings in the work God summons us to do. "Every person," Perkins states, "of every degree, state, sex, or condition without exception must have some personal and particular calling to walk in. The main end of our lives ... is to serve God in the serving of men in the works of our callings."

     We don't choose a calling (or a career), but are given a calling ordained for us by God. That sphere of service is not just for our success, but for the good of all. In Perkins's words, it is "a certain kind of life, ordained and imposed on men by God, for the common good." Though our daily tasks differ significantly in kind, they have the same value in the sight of God and are equally pleasing to him. "The action of a shepherd in keeping sheep ...," Perkins affirms, "is as good a work before God as is the action of a judge in giving a sentence, or of a magistrate in ruling, or a minister in preaching." Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, missionaries, preachers, and teachers are on the same level of vocational ground at the foot of the cross.  All callings and virtuous work, whether religious or non-religious, are significant and give God glory, as Gerard Manley Hopkins explains:
It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in His grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives Him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory too. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should. So then, my brethren, live.
      Our callings are vocational, but they also go beyond work. They concern all our God-given roles and responsibilities. God leads us to marry a particular person or remain single, raise our natural, adopted, or step-children, honor and obey our parents or guardians, love our blood or blended brothers and sisters, care for our extended families, minister in our churches, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, teach the ignorant, protect the vulnerable, administer justice, save the lost, sanctify the saved, serve in the community, and so on. ... Through our callings, in other words, we share in God's providence and provision in meeting the needs of the world. 

(from pages 181-183)
Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness

by David K. Naugle

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