Bridging Life with Vocation and Identity

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A blog post by Sara Quarberg

I love the following words from Parker Palmer. They speak to my heart what I truly believe vocation to be.

“Today I understand vocation quite differently – not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”

– Parker Palmer

Back in 2014 when I completing my M.A. in Children, Youth and Family, the concepts of identity and vocation flooded my mind for weeks as I engaged in the journey of writing my thesis paper.

My identity has challenged me my entire life. Many of my adolescent years were spent struggling to understand who I was and why God made me the way that God did. I recall many times I found myself mad at God for making me who I was, as I didn’t like how I looked, and I was thirsting for more meaningful friendships and relationships. I slipped through the cracks of understanding my true identity. But, after many years of questioning God and trying to figure out who I was, I finally understood it.

I am a child of God.

This is something I’ve heard all my life in church, but I never truly understood it. What would God’s ministry look like without this promise and this identity? Isaiah 43 says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” God empowers us with the distinct privilege to share this wonderful news with our young people. Our society tells us everything about who we should be and how to constantly strive to be better than who we are. But, the beauty of our true identity is that God doesn’t want us to be better. Sure, God continues to make us new and to mold us as God’s clay, but we are enough for God the way that God created us. We are enough as we are. We are enough. Our vocation is a gift for us to receive as a part of who we already are. We don’t need to search for it. God invites us into something profoundly beautiful at baptism and empowers us to act on God’s behalf. How beautiful it is that God chooses us all.

So, who is God calling you to be? I hope your answer is YOU. My challenge to all ministry leaders is to start this conversation with your very youngest people and continue the conversation as a bridge from one ministry to the next. Our vocation is something that we live out on a daily basis, throughout our entire life. This is something that, had I known earlier in my life as a young person, would have changed my outlook on my identity and even my view of my career path. When I was in my early twenties, I was working full-time in a job that held no meaning to me. I was miserable and honestly, I was convinced that God liked to see me miserable because otherwise I wouldn’t be where I was. Looking back, this completely saddens me and breaks my heart. Having a greater understanding of my vocation as a Christian would have drastically changed my mind. God was indeed acting in my life. I think of the lives of our young adults who are experiencing similar situations. Are we speaking into their lives? God never gave up on me, nor did God enjoy my suffering. God entered into it in profound ways, even if I failed to realize it in the moment.

So, my question is this: how can you start this conversation with your young people now instead of leaving it up to society to be the bar in which our young people compare their lives?

Author Bio:
Sara Quarberg, M.A.’14, is Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Christ Lutheran Church in Blaine, Minn. She holds a BS in Vocal Performance and has a passion for using her gifts to serve God and the church. Sara embodies a passion for high school and young adult ministry by providing opportunities for young people to wrestle with and gain a better understanding of their faith and identity as a child of God.

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