“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”J.R.R. Tolkein
Welcome to the third installation with the Righteous Way priorities, I’m walking through an alignment of priorities that the productively faithful should consider when gauging your efforts. Last week we covered the second of five priorities, The Ore – allowing yourself to be well-formed as an instrument with purpose. All of this comes behind the highest priority with The Transcendent, your relationship with God.
What would you give your life up for?
I mean, fully live and die for? To spend your life’s journey taking on a big purpose?
Would it be your work? A job or a project? Money or fame? A sprint in leisure?
Vocation isn’t a job you transition from or climb a corporate ladder for – it’s a mission designed for you beyond labor, a calling that requires everything you have. It’s a cooperative choice that needs discernment and prayer along with dedication through the thick and thin of life’s journey. Vocation becomes your identity and is the outlet for your directed love.
Vocational living isn’t by accident, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations,” (Jeremiah 1:5). You are called to do something great with your life, this is it. Your labor supports the Vocation, not the other way around.
The same character traits and skills that make you good at one, will make you good at another – love, selfless service, prayer, fun, perseverance, and dedication. It’s important to recognize the Vocation you’re in and that you are there for a reason. Whether loving your spouse and raising your family or providing spiritual guidance for your flock, you are divinely placed, right there, where you’re at.
I’d like to do a quick flyover of what the Vocations are, recognizing the inadequacy of a short block of text to cover it. There are thousands of years of writing behind each one not to mention the contemporary research and stats of where each one is today. That’s for another time. Let’s start where everyone begins…
Singlehood – Our Vocational journey begins when we’re born into singlehood. It’s less of a Vocation and more of a season. We spend a good portion of it in childhood and formation but eventually, we get to the point where we feel a call to something and start to explore it. Secular society has us programmed for two things: autopilot marriage and perpetual hedonistic singlehood. Neither routes are good for us and are actually toxic to the soul and our loved ones.
The antidote is striving toward intentionality. I will run two routes through intentional singlehood…
- Prepare and Explore Vocations – Singlehood is a great time to get clarity on what you’re made of. This is where discernment comes in. What gifts and talents do you have? What desires do you have on your heart to do? Who do you want to serve? What do you want life to look like? We also have a great opportunity to intentionally date. We’re conditioned societally to be married and we often feel like it’s just what needs to happen. Most people will get married and that’s great but sometimes people sleepwalk into it without kicking the tires thoroughly and seeing what other options speak to the heart. Not everyone is made to be married so what else can your heart be made for? Prayer and finding a spiritual mentor are key instruments in this process.
- Perpetual and Intentional Singlehood – Marriage isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. This gets a bit nuanced because you can be dealing with a lot of factors like “I haven’t met the right one,” or “I don’t like people,” or “I’ve been wounded so much”. There is a societal price that is paid for not “fitting in” but don’t let that eat at your joy. I’ve seen the anxiety people face with this. Don’t force something that doesn’t need to be. Certainly, find the healing that needs to be done, re-write the script of dating, make a new plan – but at the end of the day, you can still love well. Love and serve others, if romance isn’t in your court, the Greek philia and storge, love of family and friends is powerful. I recommend, C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves.
Marriage – Matrimony is a beautiful and life-giving sacrament. Most people are called here and it makes sense, as it’s an essential building block for society to grow. If you’re blessed to share in the joys and challenges of marriage, you do it together for life. Marriage is the only Vocation that merges two individuals into one and is the only Vocation that enjoys the ordered gift of our sexuality or Eros (with the exception of the traditions in the Eastern church’s that combine priesthood and marriage). To be co-creators, Lord willing, is a powerful purpose – but for those who can’t too, there are ways to live that fully as well.
To be careful, autopilot marriage is spoon-fed to us through culture. Media and news portray marriage as easily dissolvable. “When you fall out of love, it’s time to move on,” – love is merely a feeling and when it’s gone, it’s run its course. The result is many stumble into marriage seeing the divorce rate between 40-50% and have come to expect that in the institution. Marriage requires so much love and dedication, even when it’s hard.
Marriage will require resources to provide for the family, so you generate income with a job or capital gains. Most will invest in a career that will consume a majority of their time over your life and they spend that time making choices of what comes first. Some traditions will pursue ministry or mission work and you include your family along the way, but your family will always take priority when push comes to shove no matter the mission before you.
Priesthood, Religious Life, & Consecrated Virginity – Lastly we come to the service of the Lord, by dedicating oneself fully to the sacramental and communal life. These Vocations are specialized in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental traditions of Christianity. They can require vows of prayer, chastity, poverty, service, and obedience in their ministry.
There is a special call on the hearts of those called to this Vocation and while it’s important on any Vocation to discern well, it’s especially true to have guidance and wisdom to be able to get to clarity. Each lifestyle is unique and radically different than what society has to offer but your spouse becomes Jesus, dedicating your life’s actions and prayers to serving Him.
Those called to these Vocations serve flocks and communities of faithful or missions of evangelization around the world. Often, the adventure will carry them where they are needed and frequently that’s away from their family to serve other families. I’ve met and worked with a number of people who’ve dedicated their life in this way and I have to say they are some of the most joyful people I’ve met.
To wrap up, your Vocation sits above your labor. This is your life’s purpose and you’re built for it. Nourish and invest your time and energy into it. Embrace the joys and hardships that may come with it, and seek help when necessary. Pray always, you’re doing great work. The best part is you get to choose and follow your heart’s desire, the Lord knows what that is. We’re all called to something, so let’s make sure other people in our life are supported too.
Next week we’re on to our fourth priority, Labor.
Adam Jarosz is bringing fuel to the productively faithful – subscribe here to get The Climb articles right in your email box, every Righteous Wednesday. You can also follow along the Righteous journey on Instagram @righteousco.
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