Arrive, even though you are on the way
by Johannes Braun, systemic consultant and vocation coach
What is your focus when it comes to your vocation?
In recent years, I have increasingly observed this phenomenon among Christians: we are downright under vocation stress and are driven by the constant concern to fully realize our own potential. It is almost like a compulsion to have to realize oneself. We don’t want to miss out on anything in life, especially our own vocation. But what is the underlying understanding of vocation here? What has the zeitgeist done to us?
Sociologist Hartmut Rosa describes this social trend as the hamster wheel of self-optimization. Like the hamster, we are trapped in an increasing game of higher, faster and further. From an economic point of view, we need constant growth, and in the process the demands on the individual increase – both professionally and privately. In the hamster wheel of self-optimization, we want to continuously improve and work on ourselves to become more beautiful, healthier, more communicative, and more effective. With the multitude of options available to us today, we don’t want to be left behind. In addition, we have very high expectations, including about how our lives should be run and what we ultimately want to achieve. But if we’re honest, every now and then we get the nagging feeling that we’re failing somehow and that we can’t keep up in this game of incremental growth. The zeitgeist calls out to us, “Hey, you have all the options. Live your dream!” That sounds good at first. But what if that dream turns into a nightmare because it becomes apparent that things will turn out differently than we thought? What if we get into crises? What happens to us when we don’t live up to our own expectations? Then the search for our destiny, indeed the whole subject of vocation, can mutate into stress – a burden that is clearly visible even to a seasoned Christian.
Vocation does not mean climbing a career ladder doggedly. Imagine arriving at the top at the end of your life and realizing with dismay that the ladder is against the wrong wall? In our meritocracy, it happens quickly that we do something for God first and foremost instead of being on the way with Him. But what would it change in us if, like us, we left behind the compulsion of self-fulfillment and rather understood our vocation as a journey we can enjoy together with God? As Psalm 23 paints before our eyes, He leads us on this path through ups and downs – in the process He wants to shape our hearts and we learn to trust God and to be humble. It is then no longer a question of what I can achieve, but of learning the essentials on this journey: to love as Jesus loved. “But the ultimate goal of the commandment is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)
So I don’t want to wait forever in my life to finally accomplish something big. Rather, I want to do those things that are essential in the eyes of the Most High.
I believe that in these fast-moving times we need a new look at our vocational path: A sense of life having arrived instead of restlessly searching. Finally arriving at God, who wants to walk this path with me and who never leaves me alone. Arriving at myself, where I can embrace my actual state and also the current section of the road anew, regardless of whether the road is currently rocky or whether I am in the fast lane. Instead of constantly comparing myself to others or chasing after any mirages, I finally come to the point of being who I really am and wherein God has made me a gift to humanity. “Arriving on your vocational path” sounds paradoxical, but it is precisely in this that the secret of finding true peace lies.
VITA: Johannes Braun (born 1981) is a systemic consultant and vocation coach. He is also a sought-after speaker at meetings and conferences. In his podcast “Living Awakened” he gives impulses for authentic encounters with God and steps in personal vocation. He is married to Désirée and they have three children.