I was at breakfast the other day with a friend who described how she was having a midlife crisis. She had discovered that she was probably in the wrong line of work, had chosen the wrong husband, and throughout most of her life, had let other people make decisions for her. This is not an unusual story. She wanted to make her next move with discernment and care, to make the most of what is left of her life, her gifts and energies. So we talked. We didn’t come up with any answers at breakfast, but I know she is laying the groundwork for her next steps.

Many in our congregation face these discoveries and turn to open new doors about ultimate choices. Jesus spoke on many occasions about vocation and paths for people to take to find meaningful engagement in life. Sometimes these paths are guided by a clarion call to service. At other times, we have to wade through a messy process of eliminating unsatisfactory alternatives.

Many in the church today are being startled into a new awareness of the increasing divide between what people are experiencing with their jobs on the one hand and their sense of Christian calling on the other. When I ask people to talk about their careers, they will tell me what they do. It isn’t long after you meet somebody that, after you talk about the weather, the kids, and sports, the question about what you do will come up. But when you ask someone about their vocation, they hesitate. Once I describe what I’m inquiring about, some are eager to tell you what they were put on this earth to do. It’s an important distinction and makes for lively, transforming conversations. Next time at a party when someone asks you what you do, speed through the basics, but see if you can get to what you were put on the earth to do.