Thursday, May 6, 2010

Calling versus Job

I am sure at some point in our lives, we struggled with the issue of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Certainly you have been asked or thought about this - do I want to be a doctor, policeman, musician, cook? We are constantly reminded of the fastest and strongest (Olympics and other sporting events), brightest (Geography Bee, Math competitions, AP/GRE/GMAT, various academic awards), and richest and most powerful (Forbes' Annual list of the wealthiest, incessant political campaigns). Yet there are some who plan their lives around being the best dressed (the annual Academy Awards or comparable) while others worked tirelessly to be nominated and hopefully win a Nobel prize. So depending on your worldview, these can be 'front burner' issues for many. Yet, it is my hope that your drive and determination to go after these things are put in the right context - ultimately you have to ask the question - who are you doing it for?

Growing up in Singapore, I certainly had my share of 'romanticizing' the above - it is only human. Our fallen nature causes us to see things in a certain way - not necessarily the way God intends for us. Yet, by His mercy and grace, things have a way of turning out. For many of us, we are perfectly content with our vocations (your calling and job are the same thing) for others, it may not be the case. You may be interested to hear and view John Piper's message titled Consider Your Calling.

Recently, we watched a movie called The Five People You Meet in Heaven. According to Wikipedia, the author, Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie) "recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized at the time or not. Mitch Albom dedicates the book to his uncle Edward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved".

While I do not think heaven is as portrayed in this movie, I certainly learned something from it. For me, it was toward the end when Eddie's calling in his life was revealed to him. During his whole life, starting as a young lad until his death, Eddie worked in the maintenance department of an amusement park called Ruby Pier. He resented not being able to go to engineering school and, except for a short stint in the army at war, he always felt he hadn't accomplished much. His work day consisted of mundane yet important tasks like greasing the tracks and making sure the roller coaster rides were safe for all. But it was precisely his diligent and consistent good work that allowed patrons, who came to the amusement park, an enjoyable and wholesome time with their family. Eddie's calling in life was taking care of Ruby Pier - it took him a lifetime and his death to realize this.

My work at Montreat College is far from mundane (grading though is not my favorite thing to do but as educators, we need to assess student's work and grading is certainly an integral aspect). At Montreat, I am blessed to be able to live in a college community that is open about its faith, and strives to live it as well as promote it. For now, I am called to be here. I am not sure if this is my life's work but if it is, I certainly do not want to be like Eddie. Having recently received tenure at the college, I look forward to what God has planned for the college - we will be celebrating Montreat College's 100th Anniversary in 2016 - as well as starting a new program in information systems security.

Finding contentment and joy in one's life, in accordance to one's calling in life is a process. Some of us find it while many drift aimlessly from one thing to another. But there is good news - according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, reflect on this question - What is the chief end of man?

Again, depending on your background and situation, the answer may surprise you. When I learned of this many years ago, it was certainly a foreign concept. Not intuitive if I may say so. Yet, in God's mercy, grace and timing, I am living it (not always successfully, but nevertheless, with the Holy Spirit's help, inching closer and closer to it).

The answer is this: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

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