Mr. Rogers once said that teaching is nothing more than having something you love and loving it in front of other people.
That is a romantic definition and one that appeals greatly to me. But I worry that it hampers the development of my own sense of vocation in my teaching.
I teach writing to business students. For nearly all of my adult life, I’ve worked jobs that in one way or another revolve around words. I love reading and writing.
But my students – for the most part – do not love words. They are not at business school to develop a deep sense of the magic and power of language. A Wendell Berry essay on poetry that I read with glee would leave them perplexed and maybe even angry.
They are here in my class to get through a hoop and to pick up some skills that may help them achieve their goals in life, which mostly have to do with getting a good job when they graduate. Their interests are strictly utilitarian.
And that has been a source of hostility for me. They do not share my love and that hurts. If I am honest with myself, this is only deepened when I realize that they do not love me all that much either. (How much more suited to my ego was the job of pastor where people always were so grateful to see me and proud to invite their friends to come hear me preach.)
But here is the rub. God says love my neighbor as myself. It may not be a bad thing to love words, but it is a bad thing to love those words more than the young men and women sitting in those desks each day. It is a bad thing to harbor resentment at them for not sharing my love.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20, NIV)
I have been plagued for some time by a lack of sense of vocation in my work. But I am coming to wonder whether that is a function of misplaced love.
I am far from a sense of resolution to this. I have no prescription for others. I share these thoughts here because I assume I have brothers and sisters out there who also struggle to fit their sense of vocation into the lives they are living. I write this to say, for what it is worth, “You are not alone.”