The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.Frederick Buechner
I came across a trending article recently with the attention-grabbing headline: “Not Sure What to Do With Your Life? Richard Branson Says Start by Asking These 2 Simple Questions” ( https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/how-to-choose-career-business-idea-richard-branson.html ).
I have talked with many people who have asked, or are asking, this question, so I thought I’d ponder what Richard Branson had to say. Here are the two questions to ask, as described in this article:
- What do I love? “Make a list of all the things you are passionate about or that interest you. It doesn’t matter how trivial or random the items are, or if they don’t appear to lead to an entrepreneurial idea — one could spark an idea that turns into a business.”
- What do I dislike? For entrepreneurs, annoyances can be a powerful source of startup ideas. After all, if it bugs you, then it probably bugs lots of other people, so solving the problem might just be a business idea with legs. “Many Virgin Group businesses have been sparked by an employee’s exasperation that another company wasn’t doing something well,” Branson testifies.
What do I love? What do I dislike? These are good questions to ask, but what I found so interesting about this approach is its similarity – and its dissimilarity – to a famous Christian approach offered by the writer, Frederick Buechner. His words have been frequently quoted by many, including me, and have been very helpful. Here are Buechner’s words:
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-Interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
So, Buechner also offers two simple questions for us to ask when we are not sure what to do with our life. The first question is basically the same: What do you love? But the second question is different, and the difference for us Christians is everything. Instead of asking what we dislike, we ask what the world most needs to have done. When we ask that question, we are no longer trying to find a career, but a vocation. And this is the search that all who follow Jesus are invited to, the search for our calling.
Our vocation may or may not be our job. It may or may not be something we are paid to do. But it will always be something that we love and that the world needs. To give but one example, my son had a wonderful soccer coach who had clearly found his vocation. It wasn’t his job, but it was his passion, and he did an incredible of teaching kids not just about soccer, but about life.
So, what do you love? And what does the world need? These two questions continue to be the simplest way for us as Christians to ponder God’s call.
And then? I like Richard Branson’s next suggestion: experiment! Volunteer at your local food pantry; start a new ministry in your church; maybe even start a blog! Just start experimenting with doing things that you love that will make our world a better place.
I love the story told of a man who spent many long hours in prayer, day after day, in his church, seeking an answer to what he should do with his life. Finally, his prayers were answered, and Jesus appeared before him in a vision. He was so excited! At long last, he could ask Jesus the question that he had been wrestling with for so long! What do you want me to do with my life, Jesus? Jesus, looking at him with love, said: “Surprise me!”
There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.Marilynne Robinson, “Gilead”