Divine Discontent: An Opportunity to Discern Your Calling
- 2005 3 Oct
Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about this concept – the "divine discontent."
Now I don’t want to be so "spiritual" that we can’t find real application, but work has to provide more than just an income.
I see more and more people who are feeling misplaced or off-track. Many of them struggle with feeling like they are not making a real difference in the world through their work. With the desire to do something "noble" or "significant" they are leaving lucrative positions in that search for more meaning and fulfillment. Often they are looking to discard a financially successful professional career path started on years ago. Why does a person redirect from a position or profession seen as highly desirable by others?
Emerson said this: "I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in."
I think Emerson's on to something. Frequently I see "advantages" given early in life that misdirect a person and leave him/her with a strong desire to change courses in their 40s or 50s. The best medical, dental or law schools cannot provide enough benefit to provide a fulfilling career path if that path is not a match with the unique gifts of the person involved.
The process of finding authenticity is a very individualized and internal one. Expecting the government or corporations to provide fulfilling jobs is to reverse the process of finding one’s "vocation." A true vocation helps us grow as persons while we meet our own needs and address the needs of those around us. As much as we would love to have the perfect job handed to us on a silver platter, to have someone "give" you a job is likely to short-circuit the process of finding your "calling."
But what does the process of discovering your vocation require? It requires believing you can structure your work around your goals, around meaningful relationships, and around your dreams and passions. Look inward to give shape to the work that is fitting for you, and the practical application will appear. Ask God to reveal any gifts or opportunities you may be overlooking.
And, don't be afraid of change in your current situation. Instead, expect change and workplace volatility to enhance your chances of creating meaningful work. I find that it is often in the midst of change that we find our true direction.
A final word from Emerson: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do."
From the Bible: "Happy is the man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding, for she is more profitable than silver, and her revenue is more profitable than gold." Proverbs 3: 13-14 (HCSB)
Can you identify an area of "divine discontent" that is prompting you to make some changes? What can you do to act on that today?