According to many newspaper and magazine articles, the number one fear of the millennial generation is living a meaningless life.
In a recent informal survey of undergraduate students at Regent University, 27 percent of students asked expressed anxiety when considering their vocation. “Scared,” “uneasy,” “unsure,” “confused,” and “apprehensive” were common words in describing the way they felt about their future vocation.
But college students aren’t the only ones struggling with their calling. Many adults fail to discover their calling in life, too. Why is it so hard to find this thing we call our “vocation”?
When I use the words “calling” and “vocation,” I am referring to what is called our secondary calling.
Every person is created in the image of G-d, full of dignity, with unique talents and gifts to use for the glory of G-d in their work. Many people fail to discover their vocation because they don’t fully understand what it means to be made in the image of God.
Judaism believes we’re all made in the image of God, but what does this mean? It’s a complex idea.
The image of G-d is a foundational concept for understanding our significance and purpose in life. Understanding how we are made in G-d’s image helps us understand our inherent dignity as a human being created by our heavenly Father.
Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that human beings are made in the image of G-d:
Then G-d said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d he created him; male and female he created them.
From these verses, we understand that our worth is connected to our Creator. If G-d is of great and inestimable worth, then human beings made in his image must have immense value too.
For example, in Genesis 9:6, G-d reminds Noah that man is made in G-d’s image:
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
In other words, this verse tells us, “To attack a person is to attack G-d through his image-bearer.
So how we treat people indicates how we value G-d.
C. S. Lewis writes in his book The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal.” The people you see every day, even the ones to whom you give little regard, will live forever either under salvation or judgment. Even the most obscure person is not ordinary in G-d’s eyes.
In light of this truth, how do we affirm the dignity of the people around us?
No matter what we have done, G-d gives us the opportunity for Repentance. To deny or fail to acknowledge this truth is to say that G-d’s Repentance is in vain. Certainly it is right to take time for self-examination, confession, and repentance. But we should eventually come back to our own dignity from being made in the image of G-d.
Being made in the image of G-d provides the basis for our work and vocation. If we are made in the image of G-d, we share his characteristics. For example, because G-d is creative, we can be creative in our work. Knowing the basis for our dignity and worth helps us understand we have gifts and talents to employ. I have conducted hundreds of vocational profiles with people who hadn’t discovered their calling because they didn’t think they had anything to offer. Often, traumatic events from their past have defined their identity and kept them from recognizing their dignity, worth, and G-d-given creativity.
Yet when they realized the implications of being made in G-d’s image, their outlook changed. I could see the change in their lives, as this truth—rather than their pasts—became the basis for their identities. As they understood what it means to be made in the image of God, these people began to believe they were unique and talented. They realized how God had gifted them, and used this knowledge to find their vocations.
Being made in the image of God is a powerful concept for finding our vocations and living a purposeful life.
So obviously the bird in this story should have thought about work more:
A Bird on a Wire
Shmuel Gross’s son Chaim Yankel lived overseas and as a gift Shmuel sent Chaim Yankel a gift of a rare bird. Not being a great expert in ornithology, Chaim Yankel thought the bird was a delicacy. When Shmuel called to see how Chaim Yankel enjoyed the gift he sent, Chaim Yankel replied, “Oh, the bird? I shechted it. It was delicious!”
Incredulous, Shmuel cried out, “You mean you ate the bird? Do you know how valuable it was? It could even speak two languages.”
“So why didn’t he say something?” asked Chaim Yankel.