Many of us, when we hear the word “vocation,” think of a job or career, but the root meaning is actually “calling,” a good word for us as Christians. To have a calling means that someone has issued a call and we have responded. And that someone, of course, is God. God calls in a surprising diversity of ways, but the “how” of God’s guidance is not my focus here; rather I want to mention some important ways to think about your vocation in general.
Back when I was the Regional Director for New York/New Jersey, we ended every week of chapter camp with a commissioning service. First we asked everyone who was going to participate in summer missions, whether overseas, in urban centers or at Christian camps, to stand and be prayed over. Then we had those who would be working in a summer job stand, and we likewise commissioned them as missionaries. Finally, we had all who were going to take summer classes rise, and, yes, we commissioned them as missionaries too! Those in the last two groups were surprised to be included.
I think you see the point. We tend to use the word “vocation” in a secular way and the word “calling” in a spiritual way. Going on a global project feels like a calling, waiting tables feels like merely a job and taking summer classes feels, well, feels perhaps unfortunate! But that is not how God sees it. For him, vocation, calling and mission are all intertwined. He has many purposes in the world and we are invited, as persons made in his image and filled with his Spirit, to participate in a range of them. We all receive three things: a basic human vocation to reflect God’s image in how we relate lovingly to others and how we steward creation, a common Christian vocation to worship God with our whole being and to bear witness to his redemptive love, and distinctive personal vocations (for example, to be a parent, an artist, a high school teacher, etc.). All three levels of calling matter to God.
Don’t fall into the common trap of regarding some endeavors as secular and others as spiritual, as though God doesn’t care about the full range of human activity within his good creation. It is not inherently more spiritual to lead Vacation Bible School in another country than to serve diners in a local restaurant or to study chemistry in a campus lab. In all these ways, one can please and serve God this summer. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Which brings me now to next fall: what do you think is your vocation on campus? What is God calling you to do? It certainly includes being a good neighbor on your hall, being a thoughtful witness to your peers and perhaps serving as a leader in your chapter. But it also includes your studies! To state the obvious: you are called during your college years to be a student. That is your vocation, at least for this temporary period. And what would it mean to be faithful in that calling? “Whatever your task, put yourself into it, as done for the Lord and not for your [professors] . . . you serve the Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
I hope that in your chapter next year, you will challenge and encourage one another with this perspective. Honoring God in your current vocation is critical preparation for honoring him in the calling(s) he has for you after you graduate, not to mention, it is an important part of your witness to those around you!