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Career vs. Calling: The #1 Secret to Loving Your Work

  • Name
    Tom Harper
“The man who does not work for the love of work but only for money is not likely to make money nor find much fun in life.” – Charles Schwab In Ecclesiastes, Solomon established the enjoyment of our work as one of the secrets to happiness. In Song of Songs, he reveals the secret of how to love our work, not just have fun at it. To illustrate God’s definition of love, Solomon stages a poetic drama between a pair of newlyweds. The bride tells a group of unmarried girls the secret of her delight: “Do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.” (Song 2:7; 3:5; 8:4) Ray Steadman writes, “She means, do not prematurely stimulate love … It is like trying to open the bud before it is ready to open; you simply destroy it.” Not forcing love before its time is just as important in our work. When I entered the work force after college, I was infatuated with the radio business. I expected a career hob-knobbing with rock stars, ad agencies, and deejays, but I quickly learned the sales job only looked good from the outside. The commission potential and glitzy lifestyle lost their allure after the first year. When I switched to a different station, I thought that would change my view. But the affair with my job disintegrated there, too. Now in Internet publishing, I now realize it wasn’t radio I loved—it was the world of media. Most leaders are unsatisfied with their current circumstances, longing for a return to the glorious past or reaching for an ideal future. Consider this account from a friend in management: I used to think this place would be my last stop. As the years have gone by, however, stress and boredom have replaced the excitement and fun. I feel that I have lost my original dream of working here for the rest of my career. My energy is down; I can’t get everything done I’m supposed to, and what I am able to do is inadequate. The company and I have grown apart. I feel like I’m letting down my coworkers and my boss. Thom Rainer is a friend I profiled in Career Crossover. At age 12, he worked for his father, the president of a small-town bank. By 25, Thom was the youngest VP at SouthTrust, with an exciting future in high finance. But he followed a calling to pastor a church. Several years later, Dr. Albert Mohler recruited him as the founding dean of the Billy Graham School at Southern Seminary, where he conducted statistical research on the church—the perfect melding of his ministry calling and his talent with numbers. This blossomed into a host of books he’s written on the church—20 at last count. Nine years into his seminary career, he was hired as CEO of LifeWay Christian resources, one of the largest providers of Christian products and services in the world. His business experience, ministry, and credibility as an author perfectly positioned him. Though each job differed wildly, Thom loved them equally. He didn’t job-jump based on greener grass or greater money, but rather as a result of personal growth. At the “appropriate time” in his various positions, he realized his passion had outgrown his current job, and he reluctantly accepted his next assignment. He believes he’s found a job he can grow with the rest of his working life. Like the bride in Solomon’s drama, Thom gave his heart completely to his job. He didn’t pursue the LifeWay CEO job at first until he made it to the short list of candidates. Because he loved his current work, he excelled at it, or maybe because he excelled at it, he loved it—either way, the combination caught the attention of LifeWay. Bob Buford, author of Halftime and Finishing Well, said in a blog, “A career is what you’re paid to do. A calling is what you’re made to do.” The most blissfully married couples believe they were made for each other. To them, love is more than an emotion; it is a commitment. To people like Thom, a job is more than what pays the bills and provides the finer things. It is a calling. To those of us in jobs that aren’t meeting our expectations, Solomon’s bride says we shouldn’t try to love the job. Let love develop, and if it tarries, don’t fret. Sometimes, our job description will morph into a better match or a new position will open up in the company. Other times, of course, love was never meant to be.