Noah was a man with a vocation.
God called Noah, clear as a bell, and told him to build a boat. God told Noah to build a big boat. God told Noah to build a boat so big that it could hold a pair of every kind of animal under the sun.
Living in Crozet, we have had the unique opportunity to see the Ark in person-at least Hollywood’s version of the Ark-and we know the Ark was one big boat. But I’ll bet you a dollar that when Noah was in that big boat, on top of the choppy seas, on about day twenty of the rainstorm, Noah felt like he was in a flimsy little basket, floating on the great unknown.
Can you imagine? All of humanity has been wiped out, and God has chosen you to be cruise director, zookeeper. . .and, oh yeah, put you in charge of repopulating the earth. Noah must have been one nervous navigator.
Discerning our vocations can make us feel like we’re on flimsy little baskets, floating on the great unknown, too. We stand side by side with Noah and his poor wife when we ask God, “Who am I? Who would you have me be?”
After all, our first vocational act is to be baptized, to submit ourselves to the mystery of water and the Spirit in order to be transformed and welcomed as God’s very own. From that time on, our job as Christians is to pray and discern who God is calling us to be. When we are children we are called to be children-to play and to learn. We are to immerse ourselves in the language of our faith through Sunday School and Children’s Worship and prayers around the dinner table. Then, when we grow up, and we start realizing the gifts God has given us, we leave the playground and go to work. Sometimes this is our vocation, and sometimes it is just work. After all, for one person crunching numbers may be an area of excellence AND an area of passion, but their neighbor in the office next door may feel as much passion for numbers as they do for the color beige.
The trick to figuring out God’s call for us, the trick to figuring out our vocation is to find the place, as Buecher said, “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” As Christians we are called to serve, and our true vocations will always contain some element of service.
Discerning vocation can be frightening. Having steady work is the opposite of being adrift in a basket on a stormy sea. Having a good, steady job is like being firmly planted in nourishing soil. Leaving such an auspicious state can seem absolutely crazy! But discerning your vocation is still worth it, I promise. First, because at our core our deepest need is to have meaning, and our vocation gives us meaning. Secondly, discerning our vocation does not always mean having to leave our jobs!
It is entirely possible to work full time in a job that is not your vocation, and find your vocation doing something on the side: writing, volunteering for hospice, taking on more pro bono work, teaching classes in your field to those who can use the knowledge. One of my favorite parts of being your priest, is getting to hear your stories of vocation. Those of you who raise service dogs, visit with the dying, serve food to the poor, coordinate after school programs, and the like have such deep joy and meaning in your lives. Your vocational work is not always easy and can even be heart rending, but you are expressing the deepest part of yourself in a way that serves our community and our God.
When we begin this vocational discernment, we might find it helpful to remember that God doesn’t just send us out in our rickety baskets on uneasy waters. God also inhabits the very water that upholds our boats. God bears us gently even as we seek to follow him. God is present in our vocation and in our search for that vocation.
And today as we baptize Stuart Caroline, she begins her own vocation as the newest, littlest Christian in Christendom. She joins us on our rickety boats as we go off on our ocean adventure together.