I’ve found myself thinking about vocation lately. And not just vocation, but “work,” and “jobs” and “calling.” Growing up in an evangelical Christian environment, there was a great emphasis on God’s will for your life and the importance of not only discovering God’s will, but doing it. It’s no surprise that I, along with many of my peers, sensed a “call” to ministry from a young age. This “call” led to studying and preparing for ministry in the local church. By the time I finished graduate school, my idea of ministry had changed so dramatically I never imagined working in a church. Instead I found myself working at various universities as well as a hospice. There were aspects of all of these jobs that I enjoyed.
However, in 2011 an unexpected opportunity presented itself to work at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. And for 7.5 years my job as the Ministries Coordinator was the most challenging, satisfying and rewarding work I had ever been a part of.
Next month will mark one year since I left that job. As a part of my healing journey after the death of my father, Gary and I agreed that I would take a year off and not work. The intent was to have freedom, time and space to grieve, heal and to just live without the pressures and responsibilities of a job. I recognize the extreme privilege this is and do not take for granted this immense gift.
As that year anniversary is fast approaching, I’ve been struck by how much has happened this past year and all the incredible experiences and opportunities I’ve had. I’ve traveled with friends and family exploring Europe, Puerto Rico and Canada, with plans to return to New Zealand and Australia this winter. I’ve started gardening again, growing food for my family and sharing some with friends and neighbors. I’ve volunteered time writing grants for a local refugee tutoring program. And I’ve had more time to spend with my favorite Syrian family, taking the girls on outings and helping one adjust to life at a new high school. I’ve been able to develop a more regular yoga practice and led a yoga retreat.
Since I was 12 years old I’ve always had a job, minus a few months here and there. Paper routes, fast food and retail account for my teen years. My parents emphasized the importance of working hard and earning money and learning responsibility. So as I continue to live into this season of life of not having a job or regular work or consistent income, I’m learning to let go of some old ideas about identity, meaning and purpose. Hindus and Buddhists use the word dharma like evangelicals use calling or vocation. But dharma seems to have less attachment to work/job and a broader understanding of life purpose. Although there may be a relationship between your dharma and what you do for work, it’s more about who you are, how you live and interact with the world around you.
A friend recently recommended the book, THE FOUR DESIRES. I’m slowly working through and have been challenged to discover my “dharma code,” the individual expression of my soul’s purpose. So far I know that parts of my dharma code or vocation include: serving others, creating safe spaces, desiring all living things to experience Divine Love. My prayer is that regardless of a job title, I will live into my soul’s purpose, knowing in my heart that vocation and work are not synonymous.