One vocation?

It's been bothering me since I said it that we have only one obedience. If you see that as one vocation, it must be "be in Christ". But that isn't particular enough to fit one limited human span. It is not, in short, a true vocation, even if it is that toward which all vocations point. Barth is ever so strenuous about making use of the time, but he is ever so open about what you are to do with it. Indeed, he wishes you to be open about it, so long as you choose what it is that you will do rather than being stymied by the range of options, and choosing none. For then you are open to none of them truly becoming yours, and you will be "in Christ" in none of them.

But Barth isn't interested in locking you to any one vocation, either. It may be your limited span, but it is also freedom in limitation, and it is responsibility in particularity. You may, and indeed Barth thinks God will call you to, do many things in the course of that span. Barth lives in a world Luther and Calvin could not, a world without estates, losing its rites of vocational predetermination. God's freedom is especially sovereign over such a world and its changes. As Mary Catherine Bateson suggests, our lives look more like spirals; zig-zags seen from the side, circles seen from the top. Frustrating in the latter two images, seeming directionless for people stuck in a progressive society, but the spiral is direction in a world where we redefine ourselves based on what the next thing will be that we do for a living. "I was ... I was ... I was..." can become "I am" as we write a narrative for it, and this rhymes with Barth's insistence that God will call us to new callings, though they will not be such that we cannot see them from where we have been.

Be in Christ. Trust in your baptism and in the grace given and received. Believe the gospel. Respond to God and your neighbor. Be at peace on your ways as God's good creation. Remember: both sin and the calling are directed, purpose-driven. The law is never so, and truly respects neither in the ways that the gospel does. The gospel brings you from the one to the other. You will live, and you will die, and in the mean time, you will do all sorts of things which glorify God in your being. And you'll also screw up. But you can't shake what you are, and whose. At the end of all things, you can lean into that and know that God is good, and unshakably for you.


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