“Never forget that your vocation is a sacred one.” I read that sentence in Ian Morgan Cron’s novel, Chasing Francis – A Pilgrim’s Tale. It was from a conversation in which Liam was trying to convince Carla, a world-class cellist, that not only was her profession noble and worthy, but it pointed people toward God.
But what happened to me when I read that sentence is something that happens often - I end up reading my own personal story instead of the story in the book. In this case, what I read was “Berry, never forget that engineering is a sacred vocation.”
I stopped reading, grabbed a pen, and started scribbling in the margin of my book. (I’ve learned to act quickly when I receive ideas like that.)
I have always thought of the writing and teaching and mentoring part of my life as sacred. After all, those are the primary ways I tell the stories of Jesus and his Gospel. But I didn’t think of engineering that way. I saw it as merely the funding source for the sacred parts of my life.
So while reading Chasing Francis, it occurred to me, maybe the sacred part, is bigger than I thought.
Before retreating to my book that evening, I had been working on a project identifying a collection of pictures that I hoped would capture my own life message and purpose. It was for a workshop retreat I would attend the end of June. I used a couple of my own photos, but the majority came from a random image presenter that I found online. One of the images I found showed a flat cable of wires (like an old hard drive connector) that became unraveled and wild. Only I saw it as a mixed up mess that came together into a useful and recognizable pattern.
When I showed the image to Cyndi, it was her favorite. She said, “That’s what you do all the time, you bring order out of chaos.”
So when I read the sentence from Chasing Francis about sacred vocations, I still had order and chaos on my mind, and when I started scribbling in the margin of my book, it all came together. As it does.
My life as a writer, teacher, and an engineer are not so different as I’d thought. I bring order out of chaos. I bring meaning out of scattered data, whether from the Bible, or movies, or books, or running, or oil production plots, or wellbore histories.
It was a big insight for me. My vocation is sacred. Just as sacred as my ministry. In fact, it is ALL ministry.
I’ve known from the beginning of my career that writing made me a better engineer. I could never sell a project to management if I didn’t tell the story well, and I could write the story better than most.
What I didn’t understand until last night was how much my engineering mind has made me a better writer. I write better because I solve problems for a living.
Here’s the truth. For decades I’ve dreamed that one day I would be so successful as a writer I wouldn’t have to work as an engineer any longer.
However, in the past couple of years, I’ve seen how quickly I run out of ideas if all I do is write. For some reason I need to interact with people to have new thoughts. Cyndi once told me, “Berry, sitting around and writing is not enough for you. You need to be solving problems for people or you won’t be happy.” She’s a smart girl.
It turns out – it’s all sacred, and it’s all bigger than I thought. I should’ve known this already. What I read the other night wasn’t my first hint.
Once, in 2008, on a cold May night in Colorado, God gave me a clear message about calling, and my response was to repeat over and over, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how big it is.” At the time I thought that meant I had underestimated the effect of writing by focusing too much on book sales. Now I think God may have been telling me “it” was broader than I thought.
So, I have been thinking about life themes (one of those projects writers cannot leave alone), and now I wonder if “Order from Chaos” is the biggest part of mine. Maybe my purpose has never been writing or teaching or mentoring or engineering, but bringing order from chaos in whatever form that may be.
I’ll have to keep working on this idea. If you have any similar thoughts, let me know. I need more input.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32