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  • Emily

Discerning Vocation and Parking Tickets: A Reflection on November at the Sycamore House

There’s a song lyric from a hymn I remember from several churches ago that says, “We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another and walk, humbly with God”

I’m fairly positive this lyric is based off of the verse from Micah 6:8 that says, “What does the lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

I’m not entirely sure I believe in God, but I know I don’t believe in coincidences and I have a strong reverence for the things which I will never understand. When things keep showing up in my life over and over, clearly I think someone or something, call it God or the Universe, is trying to get me to pay attention to it.

One of the nice things about working for a Christian organization is that board meetings open with prayer and some form of spiritual practice. One woman brought in this verse from Micah for us to reflect upon.

I was googling verses that have to do with justice for a devotional we are creating for my work and this verse from Micah was at the top of the list.

I recently re-subscribed to the Bible App’s verse of the day, and here again, was this verse from Micah.

So Someone wants me to be paying attention to this.

I actually just googled the word vocation because I wasn’t sure I knew exactly what it meant. I thought it was a fancy Christian way of saying what you do for a living. I realized it means a little more than that.

About a year ago I burst into tears at a meeting of our campus ministry where we were introduced to our new university chaplain, Mark. Mark told us he wanted to focus on the idea of vocation with us. I was in my last year of college with a thesis project that was completely overwhelming me, and friendships I had only finally started to feel as though were growing into relationships that could last. So much was unknown. The last thing I wanted to be thinking about was what my “calling” is. I had just started to feel as if I had found community at my university, I didn’t want to leave. So I cried.

Mark just celebrated his one year anniversary at St. Paul’s. We never actually got into any more conversations about vocation (perhaps the tears scared him off) but his perspectives on theology have stuck with me. A year later, I just met his cousin. Turn out she works for an organization that is closely tied with the Pennsylvania Council of Churches (where I am working) and is a member of their Commission on Public Witness. This world we live in is so small.

Many things have occurred in my short period of time here so far that have convinced me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The fact that there was a mural festival here the first week we were here. Immediately connecting with a group of bicyclists. The fact that the chaplain at St. Stephen’s School, Kate Harrigan, taught our former chaplain at St. Paul’s at UVA, Elaine Thompson. Maybe these are small callings. Small nudgings in the right direction.

This is all still very hard. Building community and discerning vocation are a lot of work. Determining what role to play and how best to contribute can be exhausting. It’s very hard when everything is unknown and I only feel as though I can see a small fraction of what lies ahead.

This to me, is what makes vocational discernment different than searching for a career path. An artist came to speak at one of my classes in college and he said “why worry about making a living when you are already alive.” I really love this idea. The Commerce students in our class hated it. When I got two parking tickets which amounted for half of my transportation budget for the month, I understood why. I called my mom, and cried again.

But I think the artist was right. I'd like to add, why worry about "what you're going to be when you grow up" when you can worry about who you are being right now?

For me, vocation is a call and a walk of life. It is less about what we do and make and more about who we are in the world. It is where our gifts and talents meet a need in the world. Figuring out how to do that the “right” way, is still scary to me. But it at least isn’t scary with a dollar amount attached.

It brings me back to Micah. To act with justice. To love kindness. And to walk humbly. That is my calling. Everything else after that just kind of falls into place. This is both freeing and terrifying at the same time.

Vocational discernment to me means to pay attention to the little coincidences because odds are Someone up there is trying to tell me something. Maybe tahat will take me somewhere in the arts, but maybe it will take me down a whole other path I have yet to discover. There are so many options it is paralyzing at times. But to act with justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly seem like a good place to start.

The parking tickets get thrown in there to keep me humble.

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