by Heather B.P. Wallace
As children we are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most times we think in terms of jobs or careers, not in terms of calls or vocations. Even as adults, we don’t always think about the word vocation outside of the church and pastoral context.
When Paul calls the Corinthians to be saints he doesn’t limit it to pastors (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul is speaking to and about the entire church, but so often we relegate the term to mean only the call of clergy or ministers.
One of the best ways I’ve heard vocation defined is from the author and Presbyterian minister, Frederick Buechner. He says, “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” This explanation is a comfort to those who may have multiple passions that pull in different directions. I’m a perfect example of someone trying to live out multiple vocations.
As many high school students do, I began thinking long and hard about what I wanted to do during college. I took a gifts inventory while at camp one summer that helped me realize what I was good at and what I really loved. I knew that I loved writing, but I wanted to do more than work for a newspaper. I wanted to tell people’s stories and share the good they are doing in the world. I received a chance to do that in my junior year of college when The Lutheran magazine gave me the opportunity to tell the church’s story through a summer internship. I’ve continued writing as a freelancer in my years since college.
My vocation has evolved to include spreading the word that God calls us to work for social justice. This came about through my work at The Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago where I coordinated the Youth in Mission (YIM) programs. This program serves youth in a number of ways. Two of the most important include helping youth see Christ’s call for social justice in the world through cross-cultural immersions and helping them begin their search for what God is calling them to do with their lives. It is a program of the seminary, so they love it when youth feel the call to become pastors or rostered leaders, but this isn’t the only way to define call/vocation.
Heather B.P. Wallace is a graduate student at Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies. She is also a part-time executive assistant for The Hegeler Carus Foundation in La Salle, Ill.