United Church of Christ

Avocation

What do you do to waste time?

I have a few hobbies I love to waste time with. Waste may be the wrong verb, but I use it with great intention. The time I spend doing these things isn’t meant to be productive – although sometimes I do something productive with it.

It’s meant to feed your soul. Your vocation is what you do for your employer. An avocation is what you do for yourself.

One way to look at it this is to ask what do you do when nobody is telling you what they want you to do.

Another way to look at it is to review the origin of the word avocation. It is from the Latin ab, meaning from, and vocare, meaning call. It literally means engaging in an activity that calls you away from what you get paid to do.

I just had a three-day weekend. It was Labor Day, and for the first time in a long time I didn’t have to travel anywhere. I put my laptop aside, stopped checking emails, didn’t take phone calls, and let whatever it was that was calling me away direct my time and attention. My vocation was put on hold.

I read a mystery novel.

I painted our living room. I know for some that sounds like work – and it is. But I work long, hard days every day and go home tired and ask myself what there is to show for that work. What I do doesn’t necessarily leave me with a tangible awareness of the difference it made. Which is why I love to paint. I work hard, and when I’m done there is immediate evidence of the difference that effort made. I like that. I like physical as opposed to mental exhaustion. I like the sense of immediate gratification it produces.

The next thing I did was finish a project I had been working on. I had bought an old red wagon at an antique store. It was old and rusty and faded. My grandson still loved riding in it – but I knew it could look new again. I brought it home, took it apart piece by piece and then sanded off all the old rust before refinishing it with a bright, colorful coat of paint and reassembled it. He will love it!

I also bought a piece of oak lumber and spent some of the weekend making my older son’s Christmas present. I’d tell you what it is, but then he might also hear and it would ruin the surprise. I had to use my table saw, my circular saw, my router table, my grinder, my drill, my belt sander and a few other assorted tools. I didn’t walk away without some cuts and scrapes and bruises – but it was worth it.

I’m back in the office this morning, doing my job. I had a whole three days off and filled it with what called me away. I actually slept through my alarm this morning for the first time in I can’t remember when – a true sign that I was both exhausted and relaxed – and that it is well with my soul.

What calls you away?

What feeds your soul?

What sustains you on your journey?

It is a blessing to have a vocation – something that calls you into and through a meaningful life.

It is equally a blessing to have an avocation – something that then calls you away from that.

Let there be joy aplenty in what you were called to do, but let there be as well new joy in how you choose to waste your time on this, your journey Into the Mystic.