What is vocation? I’m often called upon to consider this question, as I navigate between a full-time job and the freelance writing and other work that I squeeze into what I laughingly call my “spare time.” Does my vocation consist of the work that I do for a company, or of the work I do on my own? Should salary or hours spent be part of the equation? What about the satisfaction I feel when I complete a task well, or the frustration of having too little time or energy or knowledge to get it right? Where do these things fit into my calling? And what is my calling?
In The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work (InterVarsity Press, 2020), Steven Garber tackles questions about vocation in a series of short essays, beautifully illustrated with photographs, that acknowledge just how thorny and difficult they are. “Created to work, we are to find meaning in our work,” he explains. “But also we are able to distort the meaning of our work, imagining that our work means more or less than it ought.”It is love that calls us to our vocation—love for God, love for people, love for the world that God has given us to care for.
For this reason, Garber broadens “What is vocation?” into a question not just about work, but about all of life. “The connections between things have mattered to me—if this is true, then what about this? And how does this relate to that?” he writes early on. He goes on to demonstrate this throughout the book, weaving together thoughts on relationships, history, literature, movies, farming, just about anything you could think of, in his quest to understand what vocation means.
In the end (not to give too much away), it comes back to the heart. “As Augustine said so perceptively, the question ‘What do you love?’ is the deepest of all questions, probing us in our heart of hearts, seeing into the truest motive of our motivations.” It is love that calls us to our vocation—love for God, love for people, love for the world that God has given us to care for. It’s love that drives us to seek what Garber calls “common grace for the common good” and to make it the motivation and the focus of what we do. But that’s easier said than done, so the various essays in his book make up an extended meditation on how to begin to think about how it all works, and to put it into practice in day-to-day life.
If you’re wrestling with your vocation right now, the pithy and poignant thoughts Garber shares in The Seamless Life might be just the guide you need.
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