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.

From Reaction to Reception: a book review

At the heart of who we are is a longing for connection and relationship. This longing is thwarted through our woundedness but it doesn’t go away. One of the joys of coming to Christ is being brought into relationship with the Trinity–Father, Son and Spirit. We are invited into the primal relationship! Our spiritual maturation involves us learning what it means to give and receive love, the way this God-in-relationship does.

Richard Plass is the president and Jim Cofield is the the co-director of  Crosspoint Ministry in Jeffersonville, Indiana. There they invest in the spiritual formation of leaders and in matters of soul care. Their approach  to spiritual formation is biblical rooted, psychologically sensitive and historically informed. Their new book, The Relational Soul: Moving From the False Self to Deep Connection,  explores the relationality at the core of our being, how unhealthy attachments cause us to act out from the false self and how our relationship with Christ enables us to move towards greater relational health and wholeness.

While there are no formal ‘parts’ to this book, there is a natural division with a brief interlude between chapters one to six and chapters seven to ten. In the first section (chapters one through six), Plass and Cofield make the case that relationships and our longing for meaningful connection are central to how we learn to navigate our world.  Our ability to form attachment in our families of origin (chapter two) and our emotional memories (chapter three) determine how we respond to the world around us. To the extent that we are wounded, and we are all wounded, we react out of our False Self (chapter four). The False Self keeps us from real relationship because it motivated out of a sense of self-protection. This cycle is broken in our life by the operation of grace as we enter into relationship with the Triune God–the God in relationship! (chapter five). It is through our relationship with God that we learn that relationship with God enables us to move from our ‘reactive False Self’ to the ‘Receptive True Self.’

While these first chapters lay the ground work for the movement of spiritual formation, the last four chapters focus on the practical aspects of spiritual formation and accompanying disciplines. Chapter seven examines the necessity of self understanding in the spiritual life, chapter eight the importance of community; chapter nine explores the core spiritual disciplines for engaging with God (i.e. solitude, silence, contemplative reading of Scripture, and contemplative prayer). The end goal is chapter ten: transformation–dying to the (false) self and being raised with Christ, being fully enabled to give and receive love.

This is a phenomenal book full of rich insights on our fallen tendencies to protect ourselves from hurt, and thus cut ourselves off from true relationship. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to set us free to love and be loved. When we enter into the life and freedom that Christ brings, we enter into relationship with the Triune God and that changes everything. I really loved Plass and Cofield’s description of the process and their insights on how we are formed spiritually.

The concepts in this book are not ‘new’ to me. I have had my own struggles against the false self and had to wrestle through ways in which I was relationally ‘shut down.’  My false self is buoyant and independent and holds others at bay. It took some loving and committed friends and mentors to help me confront the relational patterns which were keeping me from growing in my friendship with God and others. I can say experientially that the movements which Plass and Cofield describe are true. They also describe the journey I still need to take as I still strive toward greater wholeness and transformation.

I highly recommend this book but I read it all wrong. I read it by myself and didn’t discuss it with anyone. I think this book is ideal to read together with others (i.e. in a small group, with a partner or with a mentor/discipler). This is a book that will spur on conversation and mutual self-exploration. This is a book which will help people move away from unhealthy patterns of relating toward deep relationship. The next time I read this book, I will not do it alone. I give this book five stars: ★★★★★