When you introduce yourself, what do you say? How do you answer that prolific little icebreaker, the one that often pops up during a job interview or at a meeting of semi-acquainted friends, “Tell us a little about yourself.”
I’ll go first. Here’s what I used to say:
“Hi, I’m Paula. I’m a journalist for ABC, where I anchor the weekend edition of GMA and serve as a co-host on The View.”
Occasionally, I might add that I’m a wife and a mother. That I grew up in the Midwest. That I’m a Christian. But I always, always led with my career.
My career wasn’t something I did. My career was who I was. My entire identity was completely enmeshed in my vocation—and at the time, I didn’t think anything of it. In my mind, being a good journalist and giving my all to my career was what it looked like to pursue my life’s calling. I was making the most of my natural-born talent, given to me by my Creator when he formed me in the womb. Wasn’t I?
Until God got my attention through a series of unfortunate events—that’s putting it lightly, it was a year of hell, really—I didn’t understand that perhaps being obsessed with my job, with advancing in my career, with leaning in, with making a name for myself, wasn’t the point.
So what exactly did it take for me to get there? Within seven months, I experienced a miscarriage, a concussion, a head-on car crash, and influenza that turned into pneumonia. I finally accepted that it was time to step off the fast track, and I finally left the anchor chair at GMA Weekend and departed the co-host seat at The View.
But when I did, I was utterly and completely lost.
Who was I outside of what I did?
As a Christian, I’ve heard the buzzwords “purpose” and “calling” tossed around my entire life. For the longest time, I thought calling and career were synonymous, because as great as we are at talking about callings, we are pretty terrible at communicating how to determine and pursue the all-important, ever-elusive calling.
Stepping back from the spotlight started me on my personal journey to discover my calling. I came to find that in this life, we all have two callings: a faith calling and a vocational calling.
Faith calling is our PURPOSE. It will never change. It’s why we’re on this earth. For me, it’s to love God and to love people. Notice, it has nothing to do with career.
While faith calling is who we are, vocational calling is what we do. It is sheerly the vehicle, the conduit by which we’ll love God and love people, by which we’ll fulfill our faith calling. Vocational calling can and WILL change throughout our lives. If we attach our identity and purpose to doing, to “what we do,” when that vocation inevitably shifts, we’ll have an identity crisis. I know. Because I had one.
I had to learn that living out our faith calling is the most important thing that we can do in this life—more important than our careers. But living a life of purpose requires you to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and who you are doing it for. It means never deviating from the why no matter what path you choose.
But how do you stay rooted in your faith calling when the world puts so much pressure on you to work the next hour, make the next dollar, go after the next big promotion? By remaining attached to who you are in God.
Jesus tells us in John 15:1, 4, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. . . . No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” This verse is not primarily about vocational calling. It applies to all of life. If we’re to bear fruit in the Christian life—whether at home, in our communities, or in our vocations—we have to remain fixed to Jesus, rooted in him. We have to be about the things he was about and moving in the ways he wants us to move. We have to draw all our wisdom, all our strength, all our sustenance from the true vine. We have to let God direct all our outcomes.
When it comes to our vocational calling, rooting into the vine might mean passing up career opportunities and slowing down to be more present to your family, friends, and community. It could mean taking the promotion, or changing career fields, or becoming a freelancer, or stepping away from your career to be a stay-at-home wife or husband so that you can express the love of God to various people in different ways.
No matter the branch of your vocational calling, though, if it’s not rooted in the true vine of faith calling, if it’s not supported and nourished by God’s life, it won’t bear fruit. And what does Jesus say about branches not rooted in the vine, branches not bearing fruit?
“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch
that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.”
Looking at my own career, I suppose I could say it had been fruitful in a certain sense. There were times I expressed my faith calling, my purpose through my career. I’d been open about my faith, had shared God’s love with people. But was my vocational calling completely rooted in my faith calling? Hardly. So God pruned away (using the Year of Hell, no less), ultimately calling me to take a step back and reevaluate my vocational options. As I did, as God revealed the ways I’d rooted my identity in the wrong things—my own career—he helped me correct my course. He helped me find new identity in him. He helped me see how I could use my vocational skills to spread a different message—a message of faith and purpose.
So what about you? Do you know who you are outside of your job?
Maybe you find yourself in a situation similar to mine. You’re a determined achiever, completely caught up in proving your worth by building a successful career.
Maybe the change in pace, the time off from work or the time spent working from home during the last few weeks has you realizing that you’ve invested too much of yourself pursuing a career instead of pursuing a calling. Maybe it’s revealed you’ve misplaced your significance in things that shift and shake in a crisis.
Or maybe you’ve suddenly found yourself without a job, wondering what’s next, and who you even are anymore, as so many have in the midst of these uncertain times.
I want to encourage you to look past your vocation for your worth, your identity. Your worth isn’t in your work. Your value isn’t in your vocation. Your calling isn’t in your career.
Now, more than ever, the world needs for people to be living out their faith callings. Living purposefully, showing God’s love to one another, whether that’s at work or from the confines of your home. And you have something important to bring to that table.
You are the only you—an original. God created you with unique talents and interests, a combination that is unique to only you. You’re the only one who can use that unique combination of talents and interests to spread the love of God, a message of faith and purpose, to all those you encounter. And I can assure you, there are many who need to hear that message—from you—right now.
You are so much more than what you do. You are a child of God.
Paula Faris is a senior national correspondent at ABC News, host of the popular podcast Journeys of Faith with Paula Faris, and author of the new book Called Out. An Emmy Award-winning journalist, Paula previously was co-anchor of the Good Morning America weekend edition, as well as a co-host of The View. She lives in New York with her husband and children.