“What Do You Do?”

This post is excerpted from Wherever Love May Lead by Catherine Duerr. 

“What do you do?” the lab tech asked as we waited for the equipment to charge.

What do I do? He probably wanted a one-word answer just to make small talk. He was asking what my job was—specifically, what I am paid to do. But what I do can’t be reduced to one word.

I had been asked this question before, so I was ready with a response that I thought would satisfy his question:

“I am a stay-at-home mom.”

Usually that answer ends conversations as if there is nothing more to say. But the opposite is true; there is so much more to my job than a one-sentence answer. What I wanted to say to the lab tech was, “I am so much more than what that must sound like to you. First, I am a wife. And yes, I am a mom. I have pictures; let me tell you how awesome my children are. I could talk for hours about them. Mark, Nick, and Angela are the three I gave birth to. There were two before them who never made it to being born; they are in heaven now. I’m also a foster mom. I have had four foster children of varying ages and for varying lengths of time. And I am a guardian to Tony. He has pretty much lived with us since his birth, and Steve and I are privileged to raise him. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I am a child of the Most High God. I am a church member, bell ringer, substitute teacher, and Bible study participant. I used to be an elementary schoolteacher. Currently, I am an author. This variety in my life gives me character. All of these things are part of my God-ordained vocations.”

Vocation. Isn’t that a fancy word for “real job”? Not exactly. The word comes from a Latin word meaning “calling.” Our vocation is our calling from God. It can be a calling to full-time church work. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be a calling to a career, which is how we most often hear the word used. But vocation doesn’t have to be a paid position. It is anything God has called us to do. And He gives us plenty of vocations that don’t have anything to do with employment. Our vocation, our calling, is to love God first and to love and serve our neighbor.

God puts us in a variety of positions, so we have a variety of “neighbors” to love and serve. There are plenty of vocations in the family: parent, child, sibling, spouse, and more. There are vocations in our workplace. These may be the jobs we are paid for, but they could also be relationships in and around our job.

There are vocations in the Church, of course: pastors, teachers, organists, and other paid professionals, as well as volunteers like Sunday School teachers, choir members, ushers, funeral committee members, the people who fold the worship folders, and more.

There are vocations in civil life: voters and campaign workers, politicians and civil servants, lobbyists and grant writers. We can even have vocations in our hobbies. Just because we are having fun, that doesn’t mean we can’t be loving and serving our neighbor at the same time.

That is the beauty of vocation. We have the opportunity to love and serve others where we are. God puts us there for a reason.

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Written by

Catherine Duerr

Catherine Duerr is thoroughly enjoying her most recent vocation, being a grandma. In fact, she did some of the final edits on this book while holding her infant grandson. Duerr and her husband, Steve, live in Bakersfield, California, with their youngest child. They also enjoy exploring new areas while visiting their oldest three children.

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