How can we fully know and still love? This is the question at the heart of Steve Garber’s new book, “Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good.” With knowledge of brokenness, injustice, disappointment, and tragedy, how can we still love? Most of us, discovering the truth of the world, resort to cynicism and stoicism to protect ourselves from hurt and pain, says Garber. But what can we learn from those who respond differently?
Garber says he asked the question, “What is it about someone’s sense of vocation that keeps them going? No one that I know well has gone unscarred in some way. People have suffered, experienced injustice, been disappointed. Yet they kept at it.” “Visions of Vocation” grew out of Garber’s interest in these people, and his own vocation: helping people develop visions of vocation that will keep them going without getting burned out or overwhelmed by the difficult realities in this broken world.
Despite serving as principal of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture, Garber’s own vision of vocation coalesced less around Washington, D.C. conference tables and more around coffee shop tables. “I have had thousands of Starbucks conversations where I pull out a brown paper napkin,” he says. “Talking with people who are asking ‘Who am I?’ and trying to discover what they should be doing with their lives. Eventually, I put two circles on that napkin: the occupation circle and the vocation circle.”
His book begins with a description of this distinction: “The word vocation is a rich one, having solidified to address the wholeness of life, the range of relationships and responsibilities. Work, yes, but also families, neighbors, and citizenship, locally and globally — all of this and more is seen as vocation, that to which I am called as a human being, living my life before the face of God. It is never the same word as occupation.” Garber says that, tragically, the church often fails to teach the centrality of vocation. Part of his mission is correcting that error: “What we teach pastors is that vocation is integral, not incidental to the mission Deo, the mission of God.”
“We are arguing that vocation reflects the very meaning of what God is doing in the world,” says Garber. “We live in a covenantal cosmos,” he explains. His book explores the meaning of covenant, which “is only understood in history as God reveals himself to His people, time and again calling them to be like Him in the world, to care for the world as He does, to know and understand and love as He does.”
Garber defines our vocation as human beings as imitators of Christ, who took on the most difficult task imaginable. “To choose to know, and still love, is costly; it was for God, and it is for us. … God knows us and still loves us. That is the heart of the incarnation.”
“Visions of Vocation” illustrates the immensity of our calling through stories of those who dared to step into the mess of the world, undeterred by dirty feet. As we read, we’re challenged to ponder the question in our own lives: Because Christ has known and loved me, how can I know and still love the world?