In the past five weeks, my sense of vocation has grown by leaps and bounds. It is still very weak and fragile, but I am encouraged by how Lord is revealing more of my true – and false – self, which is essential to knowing my vocation. The understanding that my vocation arises from my identity, which includes my gifts and personality, and that it could change based on the context to which I am called is the most significant and empowering truth I have learned in my time at Palmer. While empowering, this truth convicted me of what Elizabeth O’Connor calls the “sin of unfulfilled potential” in her book Eighth Day of Creation. I had never devoted much time or energy to identifying my spiritual gifts. By ignoring my gifts, I was ignoring the unique marks of the Creator that would help me discern my vocation in and for the world. In The Gift of Being Yourself, David Benner helped me understand the integral role of true self-knowledge in shaping a vocation around God’s good design instead of the broken and distorted projections of my false self. As I learn to listen to myself and name the gifts God has given me, I am confident that God will be faithful in leading me towards my vocation for I am “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that [I] should walk in them. “
When I arrived at Palmer, my sense of vocation was virtually non-existent. The only specific dimension of vocation that I could confidently identify during orientation was being a husband (and hopefully a father). I was very excited to find a class entitled “Discerning God’s Specific Call & Vocation” on the course list for the fall semester – I knew this class was for me! Dr. ArnTessoni has done a wonderful job of teaching this class so far and much of my understanding about vocation has come from our class discussions and readings. I discovered in the first book I read for this class, Eighth Day of Creation by Elizabeth O’Connor, that at least part of the struggle in sensing my vocation was caused by my ignorance of the Spirit’s gifts in my life. How would I ever know the work the Lord was calling me to do if I had no idea of the tools He had given me? Over the past three weeks, I have put more thought into discerning the Spirit’s gifts and I am excited about what I am discovering. As I shared in my last journal, I feel gifted for what I have decided to call strategic thinking; otherwise known as administration. I am also sensing other primary gifts of service and discernment along with a few secondary gifts like giving and teaching. Since my tendency is to figure something out and then move on, I am trying to walk through this process of discernment one step at a time and not tie myself down too quickly to a certain set of gifts. I know this process is essential to discovering my vocation and I am committed to following where the Spirit will lead me as I walk through it.
Along with a greater understanding of my gifts, I am coming to a greater understanding of my true and false selves. This understanding began with the realization that I am a thinker and not a feeler. I soon discovered that my struggle between wanting to be a feeler was actually rooted in my false self. Using the Enneagram, my core sin was identified as deceit that is motivated by wanting to be seen as a successful person. I had convinced myself in college that being a feeler was the more “successful” preference, which led to a repression of my thinking preference. I began to link myself as a feeler with my ministry role at the Auburn Wesley Foundation and myself as a thinker with my role of a student in software engineering. Since I felt called to ministry and not software engineering, I thought that I needed to become more of a feeler in order to serve God. While I now recognize the need for nurturing my feeling preference, I know that God has created me with a mind for thinking in His service. This has helped to open my mind to new possibilities for vocation. Interestingly, I am beginning to embrace writing. It seems to fit very well with my introversion and thinking preferences. My judging preference is highlighted as I gather my thoughts and form organized ideas and sentences. While this is all very fresh in mind, I am excited by how the Lord is releasing these new desires and talents in my life.
I have come to realize that vocation is a journey toward wholeness in Christ by grace that encompasses every part of who I have been, who I am, and who I am becoming. I still need to spend much more time taking a closer look at my past experience to spot how the Lord has been shaping me all along. For now, I feel encouraged to continue learning how to listen to myself, to deepen my relationship with God through the disciplines, and put to death the misdeeds of my false self by the power of the Spirit. As I think of what I am to become, the picture is still just as blurry as it was five weeks ago – but – “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Sing in his presence
he has made us
bless His name
He is good
His love endures forever