Here’s the easiest way I’ve found to remember the difference between a job, career, and a vocation:
A job is a paycheck.
A career is a job which requires a specialized skill and usually some form of a degree, certification or extensive training.
A vocation is a calling.
When I first learned the term vocation, it made sense of something I couldn’t understand before. This is going to sound horrible, but one of my most memorable jobs was as a patient advocate at an abortion center. The first time I was allowed into the procedure room, I was there to observe the patient advocate. I was told to pay attention and be quiet. As the young woman began to cry, I wrestled with the idea of basically being invisible, as I was instructed, or doing what felt natural. When I couldn’t stand there any longer, I grabbed a Kleenex, wiped her tears, and grabbed her hand. If that disqualified me, then so be it. I held her hand until the procedure was over. I got the job.
Everyday for an entire summer, I would walk down the hall and call the name of the next patient. I would explain what would happen before, during, and after the procedure as well as answer any questions. I would then take my place on a stool beside the patient and strike up a conversation. We’d talk about her career, her children…her life. Often times, I would tell her to squeeze my hand and look at me. As she looked at me through tear-filled eyes, I’d assure her that she was going to be okay. After the procedure, I would help her get dressed and walk with her to the aftercare room. I’d help her to sit, give her a hug, and tell her to take care of herself. As I walked away, I would pray. What I prayed, I don’t remember.
I could never make sense of why I’d feel so connected to a job that took the lives of children. It didn’t make sense. But, I know what I felt when I was there and it was never anger, disgust, or judgment. It was mercy, grace, and love….and it wasn’t mine. I loved them at one of the most shameful, guilty, unforgettable, painful, secretive moments of their lives and I felt like just maybe the hand that held theirs during one of the most trying moments of their lives was not my hand, but God’s.
When I found out that a vocation is a calling, it helped me to see the connection between the many, random jobs I’d had. Growing up, I always felt compassion for the outcasts, those who didn’t expect kindness or love because they weren’t used to receiving it. I never understood how we can treat some people as if they are beyond forgiveness and that they deserve to live in shame. That’s not what Jesus taught. So, whenever I sensed that someone was feeling worthless, ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed, I could not leave them in that state. If you take a close look at your life, you’ll see that there’s a thread that is woven into all of your past experiences. It’s a part of you that you were born with. It won’t go away and the sooner you realize what it is, the closer you’ll be to living the life God designed just for you.
I realized that I get the most satisfaction when I’m helping someone see themselves as magnificent and blameless as Jesus sees them. What an eye-opening moment! This explains so many decisions I’ve made (good, bad & ugly). More recently, it explains my passion for coaching. As a life coach, I get the opportunity to reconcile women with God. Those of us who are hiding in shame can stand up and run back into the arms of the one that loved us so much He sent His son to take our place on that cross. He wouldn’t do that and then condemn us to a blah life! No way! He wants us to LIVE! Trust me on this!
When I decided to share the difference between a job, career, and vocation, I really just wanted to share the definitions and a few examples. I never expected to share my experience working for an abortion clinic, but I’ve realized that this blog is not mine. It’s God’s. It yours. I’m just a vessel. How God uses it is His choice.
Before I go, I’d like to share a song with you that helps me see Jesus for who He is, not who we’ve made it in our own minds and doublemindedness. I hope it ministers to you, too.
Always with love,