Choosing a Vocation

Over the past couple of days, I’ve come across several quotes and ideas about how one goes about choosing a vocation in this life. I’ve really enjoyed Frederick Buechner’s thoughts from The Sacred Journey – a man who always finds the most eloquent way of choosing words, and it is heartening to hear how he knew he was drawn to this work:

“And I found work to do. By the time I was sixteen, I knew as surely as I knew anything that the work I wanted to spend my life doing was the work of words. I did not yet know what I wanted to say with them. I did not yet know in what form I wanted to say it or to what purpose. But if a vocation is as much the work that chooses you as the work you choose, then I knew from that time on that my vocation was, for better or worse, to involve that searching for, and treasuring, and telling of secrets which is what the real business of words is all about.”

This makes me think of how it was that I came to study religion at UC Santa Barbara. Such a choice was not a popular one; as a sorority girl at a known party school, many people threw me questions such as “Are you going to become a nun?” and “What in the world will you do with that major?” Even my own father asked what I’d do with this as a major, and I was quick to point out that he had gotten a Master’s degree in Philosophy, to which he said “Touche.”

At any rate, in my heart, I was drawn to religion in ways that I can not explain. I loved the history of it, and I loved the languages. Most of all, I first discovered my love of this discipline in a course called “Introduction to the Ancient Near East,” in which we studied, well, the dieties of the Ancient Near East. Eventually, I did an honors thesis on the same topic.

I can say without hesitation that at the time, I had no idea what I would do with this major. I knew I’d found something that spoke to my heart. I knew that I could sit for hours at a time reading about the Old Testament, and translating Biblical Hebrew, and it would seem like only seconds had passed. I knew that I would be OK, and that somehow somewhere I would use the education.

It surprises me in some ways that I am now a retreat leader, I can admit that early on I would not have seen being drawn to service in this way. But, the really amazing thing is that I find that same peace and happiness, that same sense of losing myself in a topic, that same joy when I am working on retreat planning, and when I am leading a retreat as I did way back in college, studying the material. I very much have found a home in this space, and for that I am grateful.