Vocation, Calling and Opportunity
Reading Gary North’s article posted on this morning’s LRC started me thinking once again about the idea that one has an obligation to exercise one’s calling (as opposed to one’s vocation).
One of the most difficult tasks each of us faces in life, one that causes no small amount of anxiety, frustration and depression, is identifying our calling. What exactly is that one talent or skill at which each of us excels and at which few others could replace us? Do each of us really have a specific talent in something, no matter how seemingly useless and trivial, that we enjoy doing and over which we are the uncontested master?
My own inclination is to say that only a very tiny number of us have a talent that makes us truly unique. Most of the rest of us, while very good or even expert in some particular skill, subject or talent, still face competition from a large number of others who are at least as good as we are, if not better. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t develop and nurture our talent, particularly if it’s something that we really enjoy doing. If God has given us the gift of proficiency at something, who are we to waste it, particularly if we feel something missing in our lives because we don’t use it? To act upon the talents we discover within ourselves could be sowing the seeds of a calling (particularly for those believers who are looking to heed His calling).
What prompted this is that I received an email the other day at work from someone whom I don’t know, but who is apparently in charge of developing some new business opportunities. His email consisted of a call for those of us in the firm who are proficient in one or more high-interest foreign languages to volunteer for an opportunity to do part-time translation of a variety of technical documents. As one who for twenty years exhibited native proficiency in Arabic while doing technical intelligence translation work, I still miss not being able to use the language on a regular basis, though I’ve been surprised lately at how much of it I’ve retained even without regular practice. This opportunity looks like one that I would very much like to take advantage of for the very reason that I would like to continue to maintain proficiency in the language for my own personal reasons.
What’s holding me back is the idea that most of the demand for translation services in this language comes from the State and for purposes that run contrary to my own beliefs and sensibilities. To exhibit any proficiency in this language on any level seems to me to be asking for the attention of people whose attention I would rather not have. Also, there are the opportunity cost factors to consider. Do I devote time to exercising my language skills at the expense of improving my skills and knowledge as an IA engineer, which is definitely more remunerative in vocational terms? Is there a way to productively marry the two skill sets that will add to my marketability to the (real) private sector? Is there a risk that reviving my language skills and demonstrating proficiency in them will result in getting “sucked back” into the military/intelligence world of which I’ve long washed my hands?
Finally there is the idea in the back of my mind that honing proficiency in any foreign language while living in
On the other hand it seems counterproductive and self-defeating to not exercise a God-given talent, even if others don’t appreciate it. If this skill is a calling that I need to maintain and improve upon, perhaps this is the best way to jumpstart the process. If anyone else has had similar experiences or run up against this same dilemma, I’m more than open to any suggestions or to learn from your experience.