Parker Palmer in his book, Let Your Life Speak-Listening for the Voice of Vocation, encourages us to reflect on the challenging question, “Is what I’m doing my life?” In other words, how does my work reflect what I value the most in my life?
This may seem like a superfluous question when facing or forced into a job change. Paying bills, putting food on the table and insuring a roof overhead are where your energies are focused. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reinforces that principle—the priority is meeting basic needs. Examining philosophy and the deeper meaning of life—including for some, where is God in all this can wait.
Work and Meaning
We know how dry life can be when work is not meaningful. And in turn, how rich it can be when it is. Mary Oliver tells us in her poem, Work, Sometimes,
“What are we sure of? Happiness isn’t a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work ongoing.”
So how does one search for meaning in a new job or career direction when the pressure is clearly to get a job—sometimes, any job, in order to meet base needs? Where do we find strength, guidance, or direction when the going gets tough? More specifically, if we believe in a power, force or love beyond ourselves (God, the Divine, Sacred, Spirit, Being, Now, Allah, Yahweh, Truth…….) does it come into our transition?—and if so, how, when and what are the benefits?
Richard Bolles, author of the long time best selling, What Color Is Your Parachute, tells us:
“If you’re in transition and you happen to have an old faith hanging in the closet of your heart, it’s probably a good time to bring it out and dust it off.”
What and where is faith in times of stress and pressure?
Faith and spirituality are certainly personal and come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s look at a straightforward definition of spirituality as a start i.e. to know and to live according to the knowledge that there is more to life than meets the eye. We can all think of life situations where factors beyond the mental or physical provided influence or impact on a situation.
Vocation and Job/Career Change
Although challenging, transition may be the optimal time to search for a deeper meaning for our next work. Maybe we’re most open to ideas and support from the outside—or inside. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin vocare, meaning “to call” and can be a useful albeit challenging concept when in transition. Thomas Merton, prolific Trappist monk and social activist, ponders this challenge in a favored verse,
“I am obscurely convinced that there is a need in the world for something I can provide and there is a need for me to provide it. True—someone else can do it. God does not need me. But I feel He is asking me to provide it.”
Asking ourselves if we’re being called to something different and deeper than our conventional career path may be the core question. If the answer is a “shaky yes,” it could make the process more directed, even easier—or in cases more complex. The important thing is to spend time with the questions and don’t rush into anything, Obviously, bringing your loved ones into the decision-making process is essential.
Henri Nouwen in The Inner Voice of Love, wrote spiritual imperatives to himself as he went through the darkest period of his life as a loving relationship ended. In these imperatives, he wrote about the deep truths he knew about himself and his God. As he went through a significant transition in his life, these writings guided his decisions—and his faith. Pay attention to these excerpts from the book—maybe they can be thought provoking in your transition.
“A new spirituality is being born in you. You have to trust that this spirituality can find shape within you and that it can find articulation through you. You have to start trusting your unique vocation and allow it to grow deeper and stronger in you so it can blossom in your community.”
“Once you have an inner knowledge of your true vocation, you have a point of orientation. That will help you decide what to do and what to let go of, what to say and what to remain silent about, when to go out and when to say home, who to be with and who to avoid.”
“When you get exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business. God does not require of you what is beyond your ability, what leads you away from God or what makes you depressed or sad. God wants you to live for others and to live that presence well. Doing so might include suffering, fatigue and even moments of great physical or emotional pain, but none of this must ever pull you away from the deepest self and God.”
In this initial Center for Life Transitions blog, we encourage you to reflect on the challenge of faith and spirituality in time of job/career change or crisis.
- What is faith for you?
- Where and how do you find spiritual strength and how do you use it?
- What do you find most valuable?
- Where are you challenged?
- Who are your helpers and supports?
- How does vocation enter into this transition?
- Would there be value in writing your personal “spiritual or transition imperatives?
The beautiful classic hymn, Be Thou My Vision, has words for reflection…..
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light……….
Look to your “center” –reflect, explore and “let your life speak” from that true place.