Mar 15, 2016

Writing: A Tool for Your Vocations

By Mary J. Moerbe

We all have coexisting vocations. Generally we can hope they ebb and flow in such a way that they mingle amicably. A major complicating factor, however, is that, somehow, we are often expected to act like a jack of all trades—an expression with variations in almost all languages.  (Thank you, Wikipedia for that startling, rather horrific revelation.)

Friends, lest we become master or mistress of none, we can’t spend all our time learning new tricks. All we can do is respond from the tool belt already prepared for us. Words can be the jack that gets our car lifted up for its tire changes and oil work. Words can be our jack hammer when we need them to be. Words can be better than Jack Daniel!

After all, what is something that Lutherans traditionally value highly? The Word! And words! Books, catechisms, hymnals, etc. And, just as we wouldn’t separate words from reading, we have a beautiful tradition of writing for nearly every occasion.

Frankly, words are our power tool. Sure, they can get away with us. Still, with a bit of practice and intentional use, they can play a big part in getting things to run like a well-oiled machine, or at least puffing along.

We all know words communicate to others. We all know words can get away from us. I suspect we all know words can be a dangerous tool. What struck me the other day is that so few people recognize that they already practice writing as a tool in their various vocations.

Rather than a few red pens on a teacher’s desk, writing is better symbolized as the computer code in the background of our phones, utilities, workplaces, and leisure. Writing is now important and prominent for everything from architecture and engineering to stop signs and buying bread from a grocery store.

Words Work

Our Lord works through His Word. He certainly also paints beautiful pictures at times, but the very nature of vocation lies in words: God’s Word, which calls us to love our neighbors.

Our Lord tied His Word to creation. It still hovers, repeating His unchanging speeches. When the time was right, our Lord joined the very Word of God to the flesh of man in Jesus Christ. Word made visible! Word heard by human ears and written for the ages to come.

Our God spoke through prophets and His Son for written pages that would last past the end of the time. His Words of eternal life are so hands-on applicable that they give the life they speak of! Such tender little seemingly-lifeless marks on a page or syllables from a tongue and God uses them for His own great, merciful purposes!

Words may be the most versatile gift in the world: tackling the profound while tacking up the practical. I’m a big fan of words, especially since God spoke creation—and my faith—into existence. They are a multilayered, highly versatile gift.

Every Vocation Can Write

Although words are misused by us all, they also serve. They primarily serve!

Those lists you make in an attempt to keep the kitchen cabinets full of food, the appointments attended, and the deadlines met? It may not be fine literature, but that is seriously useful writing that helps yourself and others!

Writing is not primarily a leisure activity or way to escape. I am arguing that rather, words enable additional avenues for vocation and flesh out what services can, or should, be rendered. Words help us get to know others. Words give insight from thoughts and perspectives. Words can reveal needs and ways to serve. And, what allows human words (and thoughts and perspectives) to linger with an element of precision if not the tool of writing?

When you write that check (ok, or type in that automatic bank payment), you pay for services rendered and help countless families buy their own bread. When you write that email, newsrooms may not notice, but the recipient should. And when you allow another to write for you so you can read that book, follow those instructions, or order that entree, writing is serving both you and your neighbor.

Use your eyes and chances are high you’ll be reading. Touch that keyboard and you’re writing away, on your computer, phone--even music is commonly considered writing!

Word and Deed

Words and actions are not set up against each other; they complement one another. “Do as I say and not as I do” is a lesson we sometimes must admit and teach. Words bear the power of communication and interaction, and, though those can be difficult to navigate well, they are precisely what so often enables service to our neighbors.

I encourage you to think about what you write and the seemingly random ways writing is beneficial. Little children learn hand dexterity in part with handwriting. Even googling is possible because of many, many words and writers!

Think about it. Or, perhaps better, write about it. See where writing can take you. Maybe it won’t be your favorite tool in your tool belt, but maybe it helps you more than you realize in your various vocations.

If you need a little extra encouragement, you can head over to my newish blog, “Meet, Write, and Salutary,” where I encourage Lutherans to write and ponder both words and the Word. And, just maybe, I can guest post here again soon with my thoughts about a role for talking to yourself in vocation!


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Mary J. Moerbe is an LCMS deaconess and writer. Her next book, Blessed: God’s Gift of Love,  will be published by Concordia Publishing Company this summer.

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