June 3, 2010


Today at our county ministerial alliance we talked about the multiple vocations that people have in their lives.  The conversation sprang from a book we are reading together and a scene in which a Catholic priest approaches his bishop to let him know that he has fallen in love.  The priest both feels called to the ministry and called to love and marry this woman that he has met. 

Good old Wikipedia shares that vocation is: an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified.  While being a wife wouldn't always be considered an occupation... it is work.  And parenthood falls under the same consideration.  As do our hobbies and livlihoods. And potentially our jobs. As we talked, we became more and more aware of the multiple vocations that have an influence on our lives. 

In my own life, I am called to my husband, to my family, I am called to ministry as an elder in the UMC, and I'm sure that there are many others. In seminary I wrote often about a deep calling to rootedness... part of which comes from being a Midwesterner and the daughter of a farmer.  It is a calling that I am currently living out both by attempting to build deep relationships in my community and with gardening.

The problem comes however, when these various callings that God has placed within our lives don't always neatly fit together.  The conflicts can be painful. How do we divide up our time and our resources and our energy?  What takes priority on what days?  These is a complex dance that is stepped between these obligations and loves. Not always do we make the right choices and not always is there a "right choice" to make.

Recently, the juggling has been more difficult in my life. And try as I may to give myself fully to my husband and my church work and return the phone calls of my parents and tend to those pesky weeds sprouting up in the garden, there are also the distractions that somehow sneak in and ruin the delicate balance that we create. I spent far too much time this past week reading Grey's Anatomy fanfiction.  No lie. It's embarassing really. And over the weekend, as I prepare for Annual Conference, I'm struggling with how I can possibly spend time with the family who are coming into town, while at the same time I have obligations for rehearsals and plenary sessions. I struggle to balance how long I stay after church on a Sunday and heading out to the river to be with my in-laws and my neice and nephews. I struggle with what to do on my Fridays off with my husband when a special meeting is called in Des Moines. I struggle with finding time to get the sermon written when a funeral comes up and find myself taking time away from sleep to get it accomplished. The pull between these vocations is intense!

As I sat down to think about this idea of multiple vocations, my mind drifts to the saints who have walked before us. What biblical characters struggled with these demands?  Which founders of our faith successfully navigated these waters?  My mind draws blanks.  I think about the ones who didn't.... Paul's urging of those who were unmarried to stay that way.  John Wesley's failed relationships. Even Moses left his wife and children with his father-in-law, Jethro, for a time (Exodus 18)... and I'm not sure that when they came back they came back to stay. I'm hoping others can point me to some better role models!

Modern brain science has taught us that we really cannot do more than one thing at a time.  When we believe we are multi-tasking, we are really just switching incredibly quickly between one task and another, giving each full attention... even if just for micro-seconds. But it leaves us fragmented and tired, even though our brains are quickly adapting and getting better at this dance.

What are we to do?  What is the right balance?  And if it comes down to it, what will be our first priority?


  1. I think about this a lot. I feel like I'm not doing enough to serve the poor and others outside my family. Between work, the commute, and my precious time with Kate, there's not a lot of time for anything else. I feel guilty about it, and I know that if I were single--or even childless--I would/could do a lot more for others. I wouldn't wish away my family for anything--motherhood is indeed a calling in itself--but I really can't disagree with Paul's argument that singleness is best for devoting onesself fully to the service of God.

  2. I think that is my biggest struggle, Jessica. I look around at all of the acts of service that I could/should be doing in the world and yet there are these wonderful people who also need my love and caring. I guess one way to solve both problems would be finding ways to serve in the community together... which is hard when they are little, but I think even taking my nephew out to pick up trash or to make blankets with my neice for umcor would help to make a better balance?