The Back of the World
“Hey, what’s your major?” If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this, I would never have to pay another Health and Technology fee. The thing is, I also don’t think I can count how many times I’ve asked other people the same question. Everyone always complains about being asked their major, but I bet the number one question everyone asks on campus is “what’s your major.” Everyone always says, “you are at a place where you are setting the course for the rest of your life,” and they’re not wrong. We are making decisions which will impact our future vocation, but should we really be as worried as we are?
My freshman year I took the class every incoming student at CofO dreads: Composition 1. Comp 1 is one of the biggest stresses for freshman – for no reason. Almost eighty percent of students who take Comp 1 over two semesters pass – I’m sure this statistic could be said for others classes as well, but Comp gets the bad rap. I made one of the best decisions I could have made during my time in Composition: taking my research paper seriously. I researched how my particular vocation could make an impact in the world; how I could be a producer and influencer, rather than just a consumer. Through my research I found that 31% of people were not engaged in their jobs, and 70% hated their jobs completely. The reasons for these negative feelings were linked to a lack of purpose in work. As a cultural whole, we have flipped our primary calling in life with our secondary calling.
In his book The Call, Os Guinness describes “[our] primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone (God).” College students fall into the trap of vocational tunnel vision, where they cannot help but think of where they will be, instead of who will take them there. As Christians continually pursue the Lord, He will guide His kid’s steps to where they can use the gifts He has given them to benefit His kingdom. If a Christian focuses on his primary calling, his vocation will look very similar regardless of what he does as his occupation. College can turn into a time where we wrap our identity into the idea of being a student, rather than being a sheep.
Sheep only have one job: stay with the shepherd. Sheep are not the brightest animals; without the shepherd they would be devoured by any predator coming along the path. Students worry about what they will do, rather than who they are with. Walking with God is far greater than working for God. It is not about doing things for God, but rather it’s about being with God. When we are with God we find freedom in Him – we can enjoy the goodness of the Shepherd; worrying about what we do for God is exhausting. When we walk with God, what we do will flow as an overabundance of His love; what we do for the kingdom is a natural product of the time we spend with The Shepherd. Our wool will never grow unless we live under the crook of his staff.
Last week in class I looked to my left and found one of my classmates staring rather lifelessly at his computer screen. The homework we had been doing was pretty hard, but I didn’t think it would alter anyone’s health. I turned and asked him how he was. He then told me how he had just dropped the class, and along with dropping the class he even changed his major. He told me, “it feels like a huge burden has been lifted off of my shoulders.” I think he realized what a lot of college students realize throughout their career as a student: sometimes the first step to realizing who you are is to realize who you are not (Guinness, The Call). We should focus less on where our secondary calling will lead us, and more on who is leading us. As students, we should catch a breath of fresh air by finding rest in our primary calling and let our secondary calling unroll through a consistency in The Shepherd. We don’t necessarily have a specific place to fit into; there isn’t a road somewhere off the highway that God calls us down that we just might miss. If we can tune our hearts to the call of the Shepherd, then we will be able to see through the world instead of being distracted by what the world has to offer. G. K. Chesterton put it best in his book The Man Who Was Thursday when he said, “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front–”