One of Eliana's 5th grade teachers asked her what she wants to be when she grows up. She gave the same answer that I did for most of my childhood: "a missionary in South America." If she'd had more time, she would have given the longer answer: "I want to be a lawyer working with the International Justice Mission in Ecuador, helping the poor fight for land rights and providing safety and freedom for women who have been raped."
That, my friends, is a great dream for an 11-year-old to have. If she aspired to be a professional basketball player, I might be concerned, because it would be so out of the blue. But this is a dream that fits her -- with a keen ability with languages, a love for travel, and a heightened need for justice -- she's got what it takes.
A clear sense of vocation fuels daily discipline. It gets Eliana up in the mornings to do Rosetta Stone Spanish before she heads off to school. It motivates her to work hard to earn good grades, and then keep working even when no one is watching, like when school's out. Yesterday she received a Presidential Academic award bearing President Obama's signature. Today we spent our first morning of summer vacation (by request) . . . homeschooling. Eliana (11) taught Easton (3) to write lower-case letters while Emma (6) and I worked on cursive. Next came math and vocabulary. What a blessing to have such motivated children!
Teaching is a vocation that took me a while to discover. It wasn't until an education class in college that things clicked for me and I realized what I was born to do (though Mom and Dad knew it all along). Now, more than 16 years later, I'm in the thick of preparation for a teaching ministry. Being a woman in academia brings unique challenges (childcare chief among them), and so I was delighted to discover a newsletter designed with women just like me in mind. The Well, published by InterVarsity, is "a virtual gathering place for graduate and professional women to receive wisdom, care, challenge, and inspiration as they seek to follow Christ in the academic or work world." If you check out their current featured articles, you might be surprised to see that you know at least one of the contributors. I was delighted when they asked if they could publish a recent blog post.
I'm reminded of Paul's words to Timothy: "Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you . . . Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all" (1 Tim 4:14-15). It's one thing to decide to be a lawyer, or a college professor, but quite another thing to become one. Natural talents and spiritual gifts must be nurtured and shaped by daily discipline over a long stretch of time. Nobody wakes up in the morning and finds themselves in an academic career. It's the culmination of thousands of daily choices, the fruit of discipline nurtured by mentors who are a few steps ahead of us on the journey. That's why I'm so glad to have a resource like The Well, a companion for the long pilgrimage of finding and fulfilling my vocation.
How about you? Do you have a passion buried inside you just waiting for the right season to take action? You may not be able to throw yourself into it completely at this stage of your life, but perhaps there are tiny steps that you can start taking now . . . so that when the time comes you'll be ready to roll.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
finding our vocation
Dr. Carmen Imes is the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta, and serves the broader church through teaching, speaking, and writing. She earned a PhD in Biblical Theology (Old Testament) from Wheaton College under Dr. Daniel Block, an MA in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a BA in Bible and Theology from Multnomah University. She and her husband, Danny, served as missionaries with SIM 15 years. They have three children: Ana, Emma, and Easton.