Monthly Archives: July 2014

Career, Part II

This is a continuation of the previous note regarding careers.  See the previous entry for the other 2 classes of individuals in the matter of work and employment.

3.   So there’s a third type of individual, increasingly common, who changes jobs and even careers (despite being professional and prestigious) during his lifetime, and even more than once.  Just think about it, and you will be amazed at how many you know or know about, and are so numerous we never stop to think about it.  Government is full of them, like movie-actor Ronald Reagan, and senators like astronaut John Glenn.  I went into teaching (RBC, now called Kuyper College), to say nothing of foreign missions and “home”, chaplaincy, versus the parish or pastoral ministry.

This last paragraph does not include guys who jump around out of general dissatisfaction, without reaching their potential in a present job or really “finishing” it.  Any sensible job-changer keeps what he has until he knows what he is going to go into, that is, has another and “better”.  There are plenty of examples of both kinds, as I am sure you know.

This memorandum of my many may be the most important I ever put together (certainly if you include the possibility of ill as well as good), for a person’s lifework is a big part of his practical religion, and is hence as sacred as talking about prayer, Bible reading, etc.

I may be wrong. (Wouldn’t be the first time.)  But I am presently convinced, in the light of what I read in the Bible (about Jesus and his switch of occupations, of Paul, who carried on a “secular” one with the ministry, for the disciples who left book-keeping, fishing, etc. for other callings, plus my “reading” of history and Providence (which is another big way in which we discover God’s will) that God never intended that everybody be just one thing for his entire life. (Calvinism’s patron saint, Abraham Kuyper, gave up the ministry – can you imagine? – to enter government employ.)

So what I am saying may not sound novel or profound, but it is, namely; that a proper attitude with which one goes into wage-earning life (and attitude is “everything”, as regards diligence, motivation, etc.) should be something like this; “This is not for keeps; I’ll do it only until something ‘better’ comes along.”  Such an attitude removes the frightfulness of that first and big decision; it isn’t for life!  Nor does it inhibit a man giving it his best; in fact, for me it encourages all-out effort; “I don’t have ‘forever’ to lick this.”

Something that underscores all this is the admittedly rapidly-changing nature of our world and its vocation-choices.  “Half of tomorrow’s occupations haven’t as yet been created!”  And as far as preparation for jobs is concerned, we are fast discovering that formal or traditional education is not the “answer”; by the very nature of the case, the teachers are just reporting or relaying the situation of “their” day, which is already obsolete.  (While they could be keeping update by summer employment and businessmen do, they usually don’t, but stop all that – even “reading” – upon attainment of a “degree” or tenure.)

In contrast, many professions have their own in-service, on-job trainings, with olderish people in them, naturally.  (The notion that school is for the younger, and pre-vocational, is itself obsolete.)  Again, in my own experience, the happiest schooling I ever had was in Connecticut before going to Nigeria.  Plus courses at UNM Med School, psych department, when I was chaplain at the hospital.

All the foregoing applies to the ministry as well as any other profession.  In my “day”, despite such exceptions as Abraham Kuyper, it was for life, and many confessed that they felt trapped.  But it was thought to be like abandoning the faith to abandon that calling.  Unfortunately, much of that feeling still exists.   Which is why I have belatedly been beating the drum for tent-making ministry, like the Mormons and their “two-years for everybody”, including later Governor Romney, of Michigan, the former candidate for US President.  That is one big reason why the Mormons (and Muslims, etc.) are growing, and the traditional churches do not.  (Vine Deloria says correctly that professional preachers don’t go over amongst the Indians – we can hardly pay a Navajo to take pre-sem – because their religious leaders, the medicine men, are not full-time.)

Well, two blog entries is enough.  (Too much!)  This is not the last word on the subject.  I guess the bottom line (literally) is this; a certain amount of mind-changing can be done in school, and through observation, reading, conferring, etc., but in the last analysis, some of it comes only through actual experience and experiment.  Take the plunge; it’s not for “keeps”.



Part 1 of 2 installments on the subject of careers

A few thoughts on the whole subject of life-calling, career, which we periodically kick around.  For what it’s worth; Time was, two generations ago, and still in many parts of the world, a child is shut up pretty much to doing for a living what his dad did. (Is why Jesus naturally became a carpenter.)  Learning anything was primarily through practical example, so that farmer’s sons became farmers, etc.  Class consciousness also contributed, as is true in parts of the world somewhat yet, this in part because laborer’s kids don’t get an education.

This, happily, was changed in grandpa’s day with the coming of universal education.  Carpenters’ sons could become lawyers, or at least contractors, employing others, etc. BUT, the idea was pretty general that whatever you became, you remained for the rest of your life.  Part of the reason for that is that life was a lot shorter, choices were fewer and changes were restricted. Until WW II, people were very immobile, living and dying in the same area in which they were born, and transportation was limited.

But now, job and career-changing has become the norm, and (this is something I just stumbled onto) not something to be “accepted” as less than the ideal, but, actually, a higher stage still in this whole thing of careers and life-callings.  In other words, as a son could and did get into another (not necessarily “higher”) calling than his father, now (as it “ought” to be) one individual can and sometimes should go from one to another, not in the sense of “finding” his “right” place (for every one could be “right” for him at that particular time) nor as the result of circumstances beyond his control (place of employment closes, need of more income).

Let’s look at it this way:  What. really, is a life-work all about? Why does a guy or gal work at all? To earn a living, of course, but we all know that even if that were not necessary (via inheritance, savings, or in a culture where food almost falls into your mouth and things like houses are not necessary) anybody ought to “work”, not in order to stay alive, but in order really to “live”.  (People who only play are not really “living”; cultures where work is minimal are pretty primitive; they not only produce very little – they themselves do not develop, amount to much.  “Mere” animals.)

That leads to the fact that not all people are alike, equal in gifts and abilities.  (Some, as we just said, are hardly a cut above the animals, not necessarily “made” that way, but who choose to become or remain on such a level.  Plenty of them right in a culture which itself is advanced, developing, progressive.)  So – in the matter of work or employment there are three general classes of individuals (in both sexes, and in all cultures.)

1.  Those who reach their level of capacity sooner or later and stay at that throughout life.  Diligent enough, enjoying the job perhaps, earning enough for their needs, their working life is a plateau.  While they may change particular jobs, each one calls for about the same skills, etc.  This is not necessarily only describing the day-laborers, assembly-line worker; it can be true of carpenter/contractors, business men, even MDs, lawyers, and it can be especially true of most teachers.  “One year of experience which is repeated forty years” or however long they work.  These people have a high tolerance for monotony.  They are well advised (and choose, if possible) to stay in one job or at least one calling for their entire lives.

2.  Then there are those who grow and develop in a certain job, keep climbing up, learning more, themselves developing.  With it comes new responsibilities and new perks (such as increased income), new challenges.  In other words, they stay in the same general field life-long, but they are capable of growing within it so that, essentially, the change that we all need (especially a growing person, for there can be no growth or progress without change, obviously) is found as the “same” job changes.  I suppose (to take the single field of medicine, for example) a doctor might find this in specializing, changing from internal medicine to cardiology or endocrinology, each requiring further schooling or training and continual updating.

Some people peak in their field and continue to stay in it, while finding self-development and new challenge in another, like the General Practitioners who practice the same kind of medicine as when they graduated from med school (referring and deferring to specialists for all but routine), but they dabble in real estate and business generally or other “hobbies”.  Many retired people indulge this after a life-time in one calling by finally doing what they “like” and are more or less “made” for.  I suppose a lot of our volunteers are like that.

I think most of us have pretty much had this latter conception of life and breadwinning.  I might digress by saying that psychs and sociologists are saying that one (of the many) causes  for marriage break-ups lies in the fact that men (and women, in a measure) reach a point in their lives when they say (with the tread-mill, plateau feeling regarding work, career, accomplishments) – “There has to be more than this,” or, “Looks like this is as far as I can go”, etc.  And because they are locked in (or imagine themselves to be) to such a calling as medicine (or even the ministry!) they practice transference/displacement mental mechanism by changing wives!  (That, of course, doesn’t help, except temporarily, but you find that out only by doing it.)

Next week:  The 3rd class of individuals and the conclusion

Delayed Justice and Material Possessions

One of the great advantages of getting older is not that a person gets any inherently smarter (his IQ stays the same throughout life) but he learns a lot from experience – observation.  For example; in early life a person with a sense of rightness can get upset, naturally, at all the injustice in the world, etc.  One gets impatient with God Himself (to say nothing of human instruments of justice, like courts and police) for not clobbering down on people promptly.

Well, for one thing, we should all be glad He doesn’t operate that way with ourselves! His dominating virtue is patience; give everybody a chance to come to his senses, find out his error and become a changed, better person.  (so says II Peter, re. delay in Judgement day.)  If Jesus had come charging back promptly we wouldn’t have even been born!

Even God’s “punishments” (results of one’s faults – STDs on account of promiscuity, for example) are intended to change a person’s badness.  And when we talk about “God’s doing this, that”, actually, it is just the Bible’s way of personalizing the laws of cause and effect which a wise, systematic, moral God has bred into his creation.  “Honesty is its own reward; the best policy.” “Crime doesn’t pay” – “Be sure your sin will ‘find you out'”, etc.

And finally, God doesn’t “pay his bills every Tuesday afternoon.”  The guy who gets away with “murder” in school, on the job, in marriage, etc. – gets caught up with finally.  Kills himself with over-eating, drink, sex – you name it.  Really, has no true happiness all the while that his “punishment” is delayed.  The goofer-offer, deadbeat, etc. feels like a heel, and thinks people are downgrading him more than they are, which they do, leaving him “left out”, etc.

Now, a few thoughts about “things”.  We are often told that things do not make a person happy. This is not really true.  We may not think of them all the time as reasons for gratitude, but every-thing good contributes to a person’s sense of well-being, contentment, peace of mind, etc, which is really what happiness is all about.  In Africa I thought I would never take for granted such things as running water (hot, cold), electric lights, dependable autos, etc.  Naturally you do; you can’t think of all those things every day or you wouldn’t have time to think of anything else. But they all contribute, as I say, to a good feeling, a sense of well being.  A shower, for example; good bed.  Comfy clothes and the self-image that presentable ones give to you.

Really, what that proverb is saying that things by themselves cannot provide happiness, for the simple reason that every one of them brings with them additional cares and responsibilities, problems, more needs.  Think of car maintenance and expense; house repairs.  The bills for utilities – like the phone.

So, it’s a good caution to make us realize that heaping up things – more of this, a better that – is no way to seek something which is as non-material, “spiritual”, as contentment, peace of mind (freedom from vexing problems, etc.).  By the way, I was reading a book about the real Camelot – England of 500 A.D.  Average life span was 40 years, and hard!  “Simple people” had dirt floors.  Moral:  Praise the Lord!