Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Education on Vocation

Last week Halle asked me to read her a book called When I Grow Up, by P.K. Hallinan. I read a lot of books to her, but I hadn't seen this one before. After one read, I'd have to say it's one of my favorites. It is not a Christian book, but it deals with a very Christian subject: the doctrine of vocation.

Of course the book doesn't use those fancy words, but as I read to Halle, I couldn't help but see the very God-centered theme of vocation running throughout it. Essentially the book's intent seems to be to help kids learn the alphabet, as it begins, 'When I grow up, I know I can be whatever I dream of, from A down to Z.'

In the pages that follow the book covers a wide range of possible jobs, one beginning with each letter of the alphabet. An actor, baker, carpenter, dancer, engineer, etc. While I certainly plan to read many theologically-oriented books in hopes of stirring in her a passion for the supremacy of Christ, I am also eager to read her a book such as this. Because I think the lesson of this book seems to be a lesson lost on many Christians.

We're told that after God made the world and Adam,

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it."

Part of Adam and Eve's privilege and responsibility as God's image-bearers was to take the raw materials of God's good creation and mold, fashion and cultivate them to bring out its latent potential. This responsibility was tragically impacted by the Fall, but it was not abandoned. Right after the Fall, we're told in Genesis 3,

"Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken."

Even after being removed from the Garden, Adam is still called to care for and cultivate the creation. And we see in Genesis 4 that the offspring of Cain are responsible for the formation of cultural products, like musical instruments of bronze and iron.

The point is this: all vocational tracks (excepting, of course, those which promote and glorify sin, like pornography for example) have the potential to glorify God as we exercise our image-bearing responsibilities in bringing order and peace out of the chaos of God's creation. A homemaker (the 'H' vocation in When I Grow Up) who looks at the disaster area which the kids have made of the house, and cleans it thoroughly, is imaging forth the glory of God by creating order out of chaos, the very thing God did in fashioning the creation into something beautiful out of what was without form and void.

As the book comes to a close, Hallinan sums things up by writing, 'Whatever I do, from A down to Z, I'm bound to succeed if I stay true to me.' While this could be a humanistic attitude (I am my own sovereign, all-authoritative god), Christian parents can use these words to show their children that God has made us with certain abilities, talents and desires, and 'staying to true to me' means staying true to what God created us to be.

Whether Halle wants to be a librarian, a musician, a nurse, a scientist a waiter or a veterinarian, I hope to teach her that each (non-sinful) possibility for her career has the capacity to bring God great pleasure and delight as she reflects the image of her Creator. I want her to know that being a good, God-glorifying Christian does not mean that she has to be a missionary to a foreign country or a biblical counselor or director of women's ministry in a church.

Alright, I've gone on long enough! The bottom line: if you have small children, pick up this book and use it to teach your little ones that all work -- not only Christian ministry -- can bring glory to God.

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