I heard a story once about an old woman with severe dementia who went to a wedding with her family. To their complete and utter horror, at a brief moment during the ceremony when nothing was happening, she audibly growled to herself, “Now what?”
When I graduated from Malone in 2011, I had no definite path for my short-term, long-term, or any-term future. Since then, I have asked myself many times in the same manner as the old woman, “Now what?” I have been frustrated and angered when good opportunities have passed me by, and remorseful after I turned my nose up to a series of good opportunities. All this time I have been struggling with the immortal post-graduate question, “Now what? I’ve got a whole life to live—what to do with it?”
I am often reminded of the advice given to me by one of my favorite professors—that that which I am seeking is not merely a job, but a vocation. And guiding this vocation-seeking process is, in his perspective, the primary goal of a liberal arts university, far greater than merely supplying the student with a particular skill set.
A vocation—“what is my purpose in this world?” And the question is augmented when you find yourself asking, “What is God’s purpose for my existence?” I have sought the counsel of this professor several times since graduation, frustrated that it seemed like I was aimlessly wandering in a maze, like God was not hearing my prayers for guidance towards my calling. He responded by explaining my spiritual and vocational movement as a journey through a labyrinth—not a maze. “In a labyrinth,” he said, “it often appears as if you are regressing, moving toward no definite goal. But if you keep going you will find that you had to walk in that seemingly aimless direction to be on the path that brings both confidence and satisfaction in yourself as a member of society, and even more so the confidence and satisfaction as God’s servant.”
This, for the Christian, is the true understanding of a vocation, a following of one’s calling. This is also true freedom—in which the servant has the liberty and joy to do God’s will in his or her life, and the freedom from the enemy’s snares in this peregrine pilgrimage through the hostile world.
To me, the questions, “What will I do?” and “Who will I serve?” appear to be the same. For the God who willed you into existence will certainly guide you, should you devote your very being to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. When the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary her vocation, that of facilitating the incarnation of the Son of God, she responded in complete and utter humility: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
In seeking out our calling, both before and after graduation, let us bear in our minds Mary’s extreme humility, and hold that as the standard to which we strive. Are we going to serve ourselves, or are we going to dedicate our lives to the greatest honor that any human being may receive—that of answering God’s calling, doing His will, and working towards the coming of His Kingdom, which is already extant in the hearts of His servants.
May we seek that vocation, that calling which God has given to each person according to His perfect will; and having received it, may we respond with the words, “Behold the servants and maidservants of the Lord! Let it be to us according to your word!”
Jonathon Lincoln is an alumnus of Malone University.