15 July, Sunday – On Finding Your Vocation

15 July 

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Amos 7:12-15

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’ ‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

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Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved,
in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.
Such is the richness of the grace
which he has showered on us
in all wisdom and insight.
He has let us know the mystery of his purpose,
the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning
to act upon when the times had run their course to the end:
that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head,
everything in the heavens and everything on earth.
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
Now you too, in him,
have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation,
and have believed it;
and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise,
the pledge of our inheritance
which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his
glory praised.

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Mark 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

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“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two”

It’s been 5 years since I left my job. I was reminded of this when I tried to log into my LinkedIn account this week and couldn’t remember my password. I don’t even know why I keep a LinkedIn profile anymore. That life seems so foreign now. I miss some aspects of it – the adrenaline rush, the buzz when trade strategies worked, the organized chaos. I had always dreamt of working at a hedge fund, so when it happened, it was like living a dream – for the first few years at least. And then life happened, and my career path became untenable.

Trading did help me find my way back to God though, which is a little ironic since Scripture tells us how we are to be “in the world but not of the world” (John 17:14-16). I started reading Oxygen around 2009, and writing for it in 2010, just as the global financial crisis was beginning to trough. The whole concept of ‘reaching a trough’ is entirely backward looking. When you’re in the ‘trough’, there are few signs around to assure you that things are about to get better. Quite the opposite – my time in 2008-2010 was spent obsessing about how many months’ mortgage cover I had in my savings account. I watched people get fired around me. My boss got fired. I miraculously survived.

I’m a full-time housewife now. To my own surprise, I left my job, moved countries, got married and became stepmother to two lovely young adults. We got a dog, whose devotion reminds me daily how much farther you’ll get with love than ambition (he rules the roost, whether he intends to or not). People often ask, “What do you do?” and look terribly disappointed when I tell them that I am a housewife. Like Amos’ statement, “I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores”, there is something decidedly unglamorous and underachieving about tending a flock, or a garden, or a home. I myself chafed against the notion at first. But then I realized that there is a difference between one’s ‘career’ and one’s ‘vocation’. When the two intersect, you can have a long and satisfying career. When they don’t, is when you run into all kinds of issues with fulfilment – as I did towards the end. A career is something you choose for yourself; a vocation is what God chooses for you. You are called to a vocation. Jesus, ‘summoned’ his disciples. Amos was taken from following the flock and tending to sycamores, called by God to be a prophet. All the apostles had day jobs, but were called elsewhere to their life’s vocation.

As stepmother to a newly-minted college graduate, I know that the stress to find a job is real. This is when the rubber hits the road. If I could go back and tell my impatient twenty-year-old self something, it would be this — to be patient, to have fortitude, to be aware and vigilant. I would tell her to quieten her own ambition and listen instead, for the whispering voice of God. I would tell her to open her heart to instruction, to allow herself to be coached, to not bail for short-term gain. Because true and lasting fulfilment comes only when your dreams intersect with the will of God. And finding that vocation can sometimes take you the better part of a lifetime. But oh boy, is it going to be worth it in the end!!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are seeking employment or who may be trying to discern their vocation. We pray that God will help them to make good decisions. We ask that He send them mentors who will help them find their way.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks not just to all the doors that were open to us, but also for those that were closed in our face. There is blessing too in the path not taken, the path that would have led to certain destruction.

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