Parabolic Professions: a book review

Each career has something to teach us. When people do the type of things, they were made to do, they image God for the rest of us.
978-1-63146-548-2So says John Van Sloten, Calgary pastor and preacher teacher at Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta. Van Sloten previously wrote The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything, a book that explored God’s presence in pop-culture. In Every Job a ParableVan Sloten trains his eye on careers around him, and how God is revealed in our vocation.

In Part I, describes how people in their job, image God. Van Sloten talks with a Walmart Greeter, a flyer delivery person in his neighbourhood, a forensic psychologist, tradespeople and auto mechanics, doctors and florists, and scientists, exploring how our work puts us in touch with the character of God, and his imprint on our world and work.  He continues to probe various vocations throughout the book.

In Part II, Van Sloten explores what parables are and how our work is a parable. He explores the ways workers image God’s presence and how someone’s vocation(calling) is an icon of God. In Part III, he explores what our work reveals about God. Different jobs reveal God’s ongoing creation (e.g., Geophysicists), crooked lawyers and immoral politicians show how sin distorts things, how first responders and medical professionals reveal ways God works to redeem all things, and how activists point us to God’s work of new creation.

Part IV forms an invitation for us to live more effectively and consistently the image of God we are called to through our work. Van Solten suggests learning discernment, gratitude, rhythms of rest, a mystical full-sense-engagement in our vocational life, and trust that God will use our work.

Van Sloten’s perspective on vocation helps us see the sacredness of work. Too often, our work feels small and mundane, and seems the chunk of our day that takes us away from our life. Van Sloten argues, instead that what we do at work is formational and iconic, allowing our work to call us to Christlikeness and imaging God.

While the book assumes the sacredness of every vocation, Van Sloten does address where sin distorts our sense of call. Lawyers may lie, federal politicians may be immoral, accountants may be . . . creative. But Van Sloten’s negative examples all assume that each of these are a peculiar vocation gone amiss. He does not treat, in this volume, jobs that are illegal (mob boss, pimp, prostitute), immoral (pornographer) or  ambiguous (a card dealer at a Casino, bar tender, etc). Presumably, these can fit the ‘Every job a parable’ motif, even if these jobs don’t ‘image God.’ They still may have things to teach us.

Van Sloten, is Reformed, and many of the theological voices he draws on are within the Christian Reformed Stream: Cornelius Plantinga, Richard Mouw, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavnick. Though CS Lewis, Eastern Orthodox theology through the lens of Rublev’s Trinity and Gabriel Bunge are also significant.

This was a pretty enjoyable read and I like the way Van Sloten valued the professions he highlighted here.  On a personal note, feeling somewhat vocationally muddled as of late, I appreciate Van Sloten’s call to examine where God is revealed in my day job. I give this four stars – ★★★★

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network, in exchange for my honest review.


Called To Be Who We Are: a book review

Here is a book I’ve read cover-to-cover but am not done with yet: Your Vocational Credo by Deborah Koehn Loyd. In the past couple of weeks I resigned from a position I held for just short of a year and I am taking the time to reflect on my shape and life purpose as I discern next steps. Loyd’s book has been useful as I try to find a new place to serve in my passion. Loyd, is a church planter, pastor, teacher and professor at George Fox  and wrote Vocational Credo to help others distill their calling by composing a ‘vocational credo.’ A Vocational Credo is a short statement which describes what what we were put on earth to do.

Loyd wants to enlarge our idea of vocation from thinking of it as a call to particular location, what we get paid to do, a super spiritual breath of God type experience or a non-specific generic view(39-40). Instead she argues, “Vocation is speaking or living from the truest form of self. Vocation doesn’t merely happen to us from the outside in a blinding light from heaven or an official ‘call’ from God. That sweet spot of significance suited only to you must be discovered from the inside as well.  A thorough inner exploration is necessary because it will allow you to bring your most energized and creative self into the future. It will ignite passion in your soul that is specific to you. When passion collides with God-given opportunity, you have the elements of vocation and the power to change the world” (18-19).

So Vocational Credo involves inner work, so that we can serve God as our true selves. Loyd shares her own discovery of her calling as she probed the depths of past painful experience, her values, and how her passion, anger, joy revealed the particular way God called her to bring healing in the world. She invites us to take a similar sort of journey by creating a personal ‘vocational triangle’ reflecting on how our ‘first wound’ sets the trajectory of our calling, our personal values (which may be revealed to us through a favorite book or quote) and the way our shape allows us to respond to the needs of the world around us. By paying attention we can craft our credo: God created me to _________________ so that __________________.

Loyd also offers practical reflections and insights about  ‘toxic skills’ (things we can do well  or need to do but feel drained by), the gift of opportunity in chaos and change, how to discover our personal vocational preferences, and leaving a legacy as part of our calling.

This book proves to be a practical tool for leaning into everything God wants to do through you. My undone-ness with it  means it has alerted me to some inner-work I still need to do. For example, Loyd is poetic about the way pain sets the trajectory of  our calling and she shares vulnerably about how her childhood experience of abuse silenced her voice. As she worked through the trauma of those experiences, she saw ways that the things that broke her aroused anger toward injustice and suffering which offered clues to her discovering her true self. I have spent some time in reflecting on how pain has shaped my journey and can point to some hurtful moments, but I don’t have a clear sense of how my ‘first wound’ shapes my life passion and purpose. I agree it does, but I have more work to do.

So I’ve read and commend this book as a tool for self reflection and discernment but I haven’t composed my vocational credo (to my satisfaction) yet. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.