When God Calls Us Beyond the 9-to-5
By Katie Baker
Vocation: a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation. (Oxford Dictionary)
I will be upfront with you. I do not feel a strong feeling of suitability for my chosen occupation. To be honest, I was not exactly proactive in my choice. Post-Bible college, my only requirements for a decent job were 1) not working on Sundays and 2) stability of schedule. The first requirement was God-focused; the second was me-focused, and I did not pray as much about any of it as I should have.
The result of this lackadaisical approach is that I have found myself working in one of my least favorite fields for the last 10 years. Yup. 2022 was my big 1-0 anniversary with its resulting bump in paid time off. The other side effect is that I do not, and never really have, felt called or suited by God to work in the banking industry. I have always enjoyed words, not numbers—ideas and stories, not finance. Therefore, I feel called by God to something that is not my 9-to-5 job. Something that does not pay the bills. I have been a writer and a storyteller for as long as I have been able to read, and that is where God has placed my passion.
When I was 23, this sort of disconnect did not bother me; I was mostly worried about paying off my student loans as fast as I could. Now that I am 33, the line between what I am doing and what I feel I should be doing feels muddled. Is it okay with God if we spend all our life doing what we view as a meaningless job? Would God even agree that there are meaningless jobs? (Do I even agree with that supposition?) Can I be true to my calling while spending all my mental energy for a paycheck? It’s a rough, if not non-existent, accomplishment some days.
Then I think: Well, sure. Sometimes God calls people to certain vocations that also serve as their “9-to-5”. We most associate missionaries and pastors with this reality. But the Bible also does a lot of talking about toil and the sweat of our brow—results of any vocation, whether God-called or chosen of necessity. After all, many of the figures called by God in the Bible had to have “day jobs” to support their ministries: Paul was a tentmaker. Peter was a fisherman. Lydia was a seller of purple.
So why do I feel such dread and shame when someone I have not seen in forever asks, “Well, what are you up to now? You still work at _____?”
It never fails. I always cringe. “Yup. I’m a blah-blah-blah clerk. Very exciting, I know.”
If anyone asked the Apostle Paul what he was up to lately, I doubt he was replying with an abashed, “Still sewing those tents.” Pretty sure it was more like: “Spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ.” I doubt his occupation entered his mind at all when the shekels and generosity of the churches grew a little tight. Paul’s life mission was not to sew tents, even though that is an admirable profession; it was to reach people with the gospel of Christ.
And isn’t that every follower of Christ’s first and foremost vocation? To show the truth, light, and compassion of Jesus to whomever is around, no matter what we may be doing?
Who is to say I cannot proudly answer the question “Oh, what do you do?” with “I’m a lover of Jesus. A writer. And a blah-blah-blah clerk”?
God may call some of us to make a living with the calling he has given us, and he may call some of us to scribble into notebooks and post on blogs, never really knowing who needs our voice and never really knowing if it makes a difference. He may call some of us to punch a clock at a job that intellectually bores us so that we can pay the bills for—or (maybe!) have a break from—the God-centered work we are called to do in our spare time.
The word vocation conjures up more than just a 9-to-5 paper-pushing or ditch-digging job; it conjures up a sense of purpose and completeness. God calls us to a higher purpose than pursuing money or simply paying the bills, knowing full well that we will still need to pay the bills. In my life, my higher calling often collides with my day job by supplying me with inspiration to write about, and sometimes it opens up my highest calling when I am given the opportunity to show a co-worker or a customer the grace and love of Jesus.
Although we can easily compartmentalize our life into work/home/hobby, God does not want us to compartmentalize Him. He wants the fullness of all of our moments ordered under Him, in sync with His will for our lives so that we can say like tent-maker Paul, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12b-13). God calls us to serve Him in every moment, on every platform. Even if you are like me and do not love your job, there must be a reason He has put you there for this season, however long it may last.
Perhaps we are just a little bit too Western when we ask someone what they do and expect their 9-to-5 job to actually jive with their life purpose. Maybe we draw ourselves into these boxes by trying to keep pace with those around us who measure their success in currency symbols, promotions, doctoral degrees, and all those initials lining up behind their names. Our faith tells us that all those things, as nice as they are, if pursued outside of the will God has for our lives, will be so much hay and stubble when we reach heaven.
Earlier in Philippians chapter 3, the Apostle Paul lists out his whole resume, all of the reasons he has for “confidence in the flesh” according to his culture and his religion. It reads exactly like someone today who has all the initials lining up behind his name, but because Paul’s calling was beyond all of that, he ends his pedigree with this realization: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:7–8)
Sometimes I have to take a step back and remember where God wants me when I am beating myself up because I am bored or stuck in my day job. I have to remember that it is God who gave me a passion for writing stories in an era when writing stories is not always profitable, and when I am wondering if anyone will ever read them and hear whatever it is God is trying to say through me. I need to forcibly remind myself of God’s grace and sovereignty when I get into that headspace where I believe my job does not fit because I do not like finance. Just because our perspective is too limited to see something’s value does not mean that that something is valueless. Above all else, I am called by God to have a correct perspective of my life and those things He has tasked me with doing. Despair can happen, but we do not need to stay there.
I suppose God’s answer to someone like me whose vocation is beyond their occupation might just be, “Focus on Me, and keep on keeping on.”
Katie Baker is a graduate of Clarks Summit University with a Bachelor of Arts from their writing programme. She lives in beautiful upstate New York and writes mainly fiction that deals with the truths of life even in the small moments. Her work has been previously published in Adelaide Literary Magazine, TWJ Magazine, and Torrid Literature Journal. You can find and follow her writing at Seekingprose.com.
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8/1/2023 01:19:39 am
Thanks for these thoughts Katie. Praying God will use you greatly right where you are!
26/1/2023 02:45:56 am
Just read this Katie. Continuing to pray for you.
Justin Anthony Thompson
1/3/2023 10:25:34 pm
I am told: "My Father's house has a million massions". I ask myself daily to challenge Father's will as to how may my work, daily and eternally , fill His Son's rule.
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