It seems as if the past few weeks have continuously reminded me of this idea of passion and calling in life. I’m not sure if it’s coincidence, if it’s God’s reinforcement, or if I’m just noticing it more because it’s on my mind. Regardless, I’m grateful for the gentle pushes.
A few weeks ago, the senior pastor at my church in NYC preached about God’s calling. Obviously, it struck a chord in me. I won’t reiterate the entire sermon but one thing that really stuck with me was a quote he said:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
I love that because it’s so true. He went on to say that for those of us in the congregation who are artists and designers, we are the expression of God’s creativity and love for beauty; for those of us who are in non-profit and social justice, we are the expression of God’s justice and compassion; still others of us are the expression of God’s careful planning, of His peace, of His diligence, of His patience, and the list could go on. The “world’s deep hunger” is not that of the literal sense, but an understanding of what the world needs, however big or small. Our calling in life is the meeting spot of the things that we love — the things that bring out our best selves, that we excel in, that reflect who we were made to be — and what we can contribute to the world to make it more reflective of what it was meant to be.
Naturally, we tend to think of our calling in terms of career. While I always emphasize that we are far more than our careers and that passion goes beyond the work we are paid to do, I couldn’t help but reflect on my current job status. In the eyes of the world, I have a great job, honestly. It doesn’t pay as much as most of my peers’ careers, but it pays decently for my field (enough to cover my rent, student loans, and food to survive) and has decent perks. Most of all, it is a place of work that very obviously fulfills a part of the world’s hunger (somewhat literally, but mostly metaphorically). But what I realize is that the work itself is not my deep gladness nor does it bring out my deep gladness.
I don’t think that one’s work, as in the actual tasks and responsibilities of a job, needs to be one’s deep gladness. I think that it can bring out one’s greatest gladness, as in it can bring out parts of you that you like about yourself or that make you feel whole or confident or just plain good. For example, my partner has what I think is a boring day-to-day job in equity research. He wouldn’t call it boring, but he certainly wouldn’t say it’s the most fulfilling job (in fact, he often mentions potentially moving to work for a smaller shop or start-up, or making a career switch altogether). But he’s really good at research, writing, and analyzing trends (and this is not just financial trends — give him anything sports-related and he turns into a little prophet), and he’s able to use the skills he uniquely has to contribute to his team and work. And he’s able to look at his job and feel proud and good about himself. That’s amazing. I work at a place that should in theory be a million times more gratifying than his less-than-socially-productive company, yet I don’t feel that same pride in my work or in who I am at work.
Like I mentioned before, our calling goes beyond our careers. My partner wouldn’t say his work is necessarily his calling. Perhaps it’s part of his calling for the current moment in his life, but he sees the rest of his life outside of work far more important than the hours he spends in the office Monday through Friday. He makes it a point to engage in relationships and activities that allow for him to take what is unique to himself — his personality, his experiences, his skills, his knowledge — to invest in making this world and this life more whole for himself and those around him. I think I do this too for the most part, and I could do it better, but we spend so much time at work typically it’s hard for me to accept that I’m investing this much of my life into something that neither moves me deeply nor encourages me to be more whole.
It’s not a secret that I’m not fully satisfied at my current organization. For the sake of my passions and outside-of-work calling though, I don’t plan on leaving it. Like I said, it’s a good organization that does good work, even if it leaves me uninspired for now. But I intend to take the next few months to a year to see if I can make my current job more inspiring somehow, and to begin charting a course that can help me find that place where my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.