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.
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?