Friday, July 23, 2010

"Sometimes we have to change jobs in order to maintain our vocation." -- Eugene Peterson

This statement, from his book Practice Resurrection, is only a small blip in the midst of a larger conversation on growing up in Christ.  A small statement that managed to lodge itself into my mind like a mantra.  Peterson was speaking in hindsight to the metamorphosis of  Walker Percy from physician to novelist.
walker percyImage by famous librarian via Flickr

Percy began his vocational life as a physician, intending to use medicines and surgeries to heal sick and damaged bodies. He had hardly gotten started before he changed jobs. Sometimes we have to change jobs in order to maintain our vocation. Percy did.  He became a writer so he could tend to the healing of souls, using nouns and verbs to cure what ails us. (Peterson, Practice Resurrection, p. 55)
Job. Vocation. Calling.  Not new ideas, certainly, but pressing concerns for the majority of my immediate family. It's become almost humorous, the conversational scurry during each family get-together on the dates of interviews, resume mailings and timelines to hear back from the potential employers.

My husband led the way in a difficult downsizing of staff in our church this summer.  Three staff had to be let go in order to right the sinking budgetary ship.  One job to go was my father's.  Another is my husband's.  Add to that my sister's teaching job cut in school budget compromises.  My brother's quest for fair salary for his labor.  His girlfriend looking for a teaching position to fulfill her newly-earned master's degree.  Another brother fresh from the rigors of graduate work, uncertain where to land.  My  mother wondering how much more income she may need to generate to fill in the gaps of my father's lay off.  I've been asking myself the same question, actually.  My oldest son's entry into college this fall, high with hope for the education system to steer him toward his destiny.  Our three other children, waiting in the wings, watching his experience as they form their own dreams. Job. Vocation. Calling.  God, help us.

Peterson's book unpacks the writings of the Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus.  His letter diagnoses a condition among God's people that the physician/novelist Percy echoes in his own writing centuries later:
Walker Percy wrote six novels in which he made us insiders to the spiritual disease of alienation that he found pervasive in American culture. His name for the condition is "lost in the cosmos." We don't know who we are or where we are. We don't know where we came from or where we are going. (Peterson, Practice Resurrection, p. 54)
Lost. Disoriented. Untethered.  All words I've babbled to my husband in our daily stream of consciousness sorting out of life right now.  Lost in the cosmos sums it up just about perfectly.

more thoughts coming soon
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