Why Does it Have to be so Difficult? The Challenge of Vocation

F A T H O M || T R I B E


I ONCE ran a marathon. It was a bucket list goal, unlike any of my prior athletic pursuits. In my former sports life, running was always a necessary means to an end. You have to run the bases to score a run. You have to hustle down the court to set up an offensive play. You have to sprint across the goal line to score a touchdown.

I soon learned: to run a marathon you had to view running as the end itself. Or you go insane.

This is because a 26.2 mile race is too much for an average human being to consider all at once. When I first started training, the thought of running that distance was overwhelming. The prospect of crossing the finish line felt too abstract. Too far. Too hard.

Ponder the difference between “I have to run over 26 miles today” and “I get to run as much as I can today.” The running distance was the same, but the perspective shift was profound. I’d be lying if I said it was easy.

The challenge of vocation isn’t all that different. We view God’s call upon our lives at BIG; therefore our response must match the grandeur. Mustering up a big response to a big call often leaves us paralyzed in our insufficiency.

And, we are prone to want our response to God’s call to be perfect, as if we are to hit a bullseye far out of range, with only one arrow left, in the midst of a storm and the clock winding down.

Truth be told, most of the time we don’t receive the big booming call, and our responses to what we hear are often imperfect. The shrub next to our sidewalk doesn’t burst into flames. The donkey doesn’t turn its head our way and tell us what we need to hear. The angel doesn’t descend from heaven on a cloud. Our calls are often found in the realm of hunches, clues and glimmers. These whispers of inspiration require small, faithful steps along a relatively uncertain path.

To respond to a call, I’ve finally learned, you have to view the call as an end itself.

When we do…
we step into vocation with freedom, not backing away with fear…
we actively participate in vocation instead of drumming our fingers waiting for the miraculous…
we see vocation as a process of faithful, incremental steps in the here and now, not some far off
destination…
we know that vocation is not a curt exchange between God and us, but a long obedience in the same               direction with the triune God.

The challenge of vocation, in a word, is attention. Distracted by the enormity of it all, it’s tough to pay attention to God, others and self in the present moments. When we pay attention, the whispers of inspiration compel us to widen our eyes, perk our ears, fix our jaw, and keep trudging. Even when things seem overwhelming.

I’ve only run that one marathon. I checked it off the list and haven’t mustered the motivation to endure another. But the lessons remain.

  • Resist the urge to ask: “Will I ever get there?”
  • Instead, lean into the question: “What’s the next right thing for me to do?”
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