‘Now, what is it that you do?”
I would wager that nearly every adult reading this column has been asked that question -- at a party, on a first visit to church, at the kids’ ball field, or some other time when meeting someone new. For most adults, our identity is shaped by what we do -- the jobs we work, the positions we hold, the tasks we accomplish, the ways we volunteer.
Sometimes it seems that who we are is all about what we do.
Truthfully, the two are deeply connected. In Genesis 1, the very first words about who we are as human beings has something to say about what we do. “And God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, and let them have dominion over the fish, birds, cattle, every thing that creeps on the earth,’’’ (Gen. 1:26).
But in the Biblical story, it’s not what we do that determines who we are; rather, who we are offers insight into what we are to do with our lives. Because we are created as God’s children in God’s image, we are called to use our gifts to care for God’s world. We are to listen for God’s voice in our lives, calling us forth to share in God’s work.
In his book about vocation, “Let Your Life Speak,” author Parker Palmer wrote, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
Pardon the double negatives, but he says that our own vocation is what we can’t not do if we are truly living our own lives.
People with various gifts and with any vocation can offer their gifts to the kingdom of God. For Jesus, the ability to build a business is equal with the ability to preach a sermon. Tending to crops in the ground is just as sacred as tending to souls.
Your real estate expertise can come to good use when you work on behalf of the homeless. Your background in accounting or finance could be used to help your church spend money on meeting ministry needs more than paying institutional bills.
Your teacher’s training can be used to provide after-school tutoring to those kids of single parents who just need a little more attention. Your experience as an electrician may be used to wire a home for Habitat for Humanity to provide low-cost housing for destitute families.
Every talent or treasure offered to the Christ becomes holy. The bottom line is this: The gift most valued by God is the one most valued by you. The talents you enjoy most -- whatever churns up energy within you -- those are the very gifts needed in the work of God’s kingdom.
Look within yourself. What invigorates you? What keeps you awake at night? What fuels your imagination, even when you are tired?
Here is where you will find your most valued treasure. Here is where you will find a gift worthy of your Lord.
The Rev. Julie Long is associate pastor and minister of children and families at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon.