by Matthew Stockard
Week by week, the vocation I serve in the Church brings me into contact with gifted people whose own callings to ministry give them energy and joy. Like most of us who engage the Church, my week is also filled with all manner of oddly messy circumstances. Much of my vocational life is caught up in those untidy situations, and despite their sometimes challenging nature, they are largely quite positive, reflecting that great quip attributed to Archbishop Tutu: “Anglicanism is very, very messy, but very lovable.”
A few of the people I meet with each month have been exhausted by their vocations. They are generally good, diligent, sometimes visionary folk, who have either worn themselves down or allowed others to do so, or both. In some of the most painful cases, such persons have confused servant ministry with a rationalized and artificial martyrdom. Hard work sometimes brings suffering as a part of our vocation, but we cannot remain there in an ongoing way.
My months always contain conversations with good “lights on” clergy and laity who have grown a bit tired. They love ministry, but are saddened or depleted by a variety of things, churchy or not. Most often these are the ordinary kinds of tired. Some of these people only need to hear a very simple, yet somehow rare, piece of feedback: that their ministry touches hearts and changes lives—not because of its grandeur, but because it is.
Whatever your vocation, the Holy One has called it forth from you not for the purpose of generating suffering, but for the advancement of a joy rooted in you that sustains community. Challenges will, of course, be present. When looking for vocation, one looks for those instants of true joy. In all of life’s business, it’s easy to lose this simple truth. Fame, fortune, and being perceived as important or powerful have little to do with true vocation, and are sometimes strong forces in leading us off the vocational mark. There are times when being addicted to bigness generates considerable suffering, but the addiction is hard to break. As you make your way, first be aware of your joy and of how that joy touches others. The great 87-year-old sushi chef Hiro Ono is not a master of his craft because he sought to be important: He delights in extraordinary sushi.
Transforming Work has been an experience of great delight for some three years now, but it will be transforming itself shortly. This reflection series will disappear, but these resources for continuing CREDO will not. You’ll learn much about this in the weeks ahead. As I conclude, I want to thank my co-blogger, Brad Agry, and all the other bloggers who have worked together to build this resource in other focus areas. Their companionship has been a joyful part of this experience. Thanks go to Herb Gunn of CREDO for the vision, invitation and persuasion to engage such a thing as this, to Cindy Underwood of CREDO for ensuring that postings took place on time and as intended, and to Palmer Jones of CREDO, who has served as an artful editor and skillful guide, helping me along the way. Thanks to all of you readers who have traveled with us on this journey, and let us continue it in a practice that seeks both mastery and joy. Blessings to all!