Vocation, Gratitude, and Joy: Unpaid Labor

By: Donnell Wyche – August 25, 2019

Considering Vocation
For this series on vocation, gratitude, and joy, I’ve centered our series in the idea that our vocation–more than what we do for a living or what we do to earn money–is something we discover by learning to implement the Quaker spiritual practice of listening to our lives as they speak.

At our core, we are a reflection of the imago dei, the image of God.

27So God created human beings in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Most of us will discover vocation at the intersection of what brings us joy and our daily activity and engagement with the world. Some of us will discover our vocation when we are called to join with God in God’s activity to renew and repair the world.

Simon, Will You Help Me?

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. (Luke 5:1-3)

It’s been a long night of fishing without much success, and when we encounter Simon and his companions, they’re tired and ready to head home. But then Jesus shows up and interrupts their routines. In spite of being at the end of his work day, Peter made space for Jesus’ interruption.

How are you making space for God to speak to you?

One of the things we want to cultivate in our community is a growing sense and awareness of God’s presence in our everyday, ordinary routines. Creating this kind of attention takes time and work. We develop this awareness happens when we incorporate spiritual practices into our day like prayer, engaging scripture, the daily Examen, silence, solitude, and a regular sabbath.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
How often is God trying to get our attention in the midst of daily routines, and how often are we aware and responsive?

When the crowds have grown to large to hear Jesus, he knows that being on the water will help his voice project. So he asks Simon for his boat – he doesn’t unpack how following Jesus at this time will impact him and the rest of the world. He just makes a request. And imbedded in this request is an invitation to partner. It’s a personal call. There’s an intersection between his abilities and God’s work repairing, restoring, and transforming the world. And Jesus knew that Simon was more than just his trade.

Simon didn’t know that by pushing his boat out to sea that he would be partnering with God in repairing the world. He just had a choice, and we do too.

Unpaid Labor – A part of discernment
Part of what Simon has to do by agreeing to take Jesus out in his boat is row the entire time Jesus is speaking. He doesn’t just drop an anchor. And he’s not getting paid for this labor. And so too is it with us – much of our call to vacation is just unpaid labor. And often, vocation will cost us more than it will ever pay. Will we make space for a call to vocation? Will we consider doing this work without a clear promise of pay?

Our vocations are not ultimately about us. They involve us, but they’re ultimately about God and his aching heart for the world. God has decided to partner with us in order to do the work of renewing, restoring, and repairing the world.

Often all God needs to someone who is willing to partner?

When we receive our invitation to partner with God in the places of deep pain and suffering, in the places where the world needs compassion, love, forgiveness, and mercy, how will we reply? How will we respond?

Peter had no idea that by pushing his boat away from shore that he would be partnering with God in repairing the world.