Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber. IVP Books. 256 pages. 2014.
Steven Garber was the featured speaker at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May, 2014. Not long afterwards, my wife and I read and discussed this book. It is best read slowly, as he weaves in stories of the band Jars of Clay, Jena Lee Nardella, Wendell Berry, U2, John Le Carre, J.I. Packer, and many others along with books and films in this wonderful book. Reading it had the feel of having a conversation with him in a coffee shop or his living room.
Garber is the principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture, which is focused on reframing the way people understand life, especially the meaning of vocation and the common good. They see that vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission Dei. He writes that this book invites the reader to “come and see” that this vision of vocation is being lived out by men and women who are committed to a faith that shapes vocation that shapes culture.
He writes that there is not a more difficult task that human beings face than to know the world and still love it. A recurring question that he asks throughout the book is: “Knowing what I know, what will I do”? He indicates that in thousands of important and different ways, each story is formed by asking and answering that question.
Other penetrating questions he asks in the book are:
• How does one learn to see with the eyes of the heart, to see oneself as responsible for the way the world is and isn’t?
• Can we know the world and still love it?
I enjoyed his profiles of people who chose to love with honesty and integrity. He writes that those people “see themselves as implicated in the way the world is and ought to be. They see themselves as having vocations that call them into life, into the world – into a way of knowing that implicates them, for loves sake.” He writes that they are people who have vocations in imitation of the vocation of God knowing the worst about the world, and still loving it. They learn to live in the tension of life, living with what is and longing for what will be for the sake of the world. He writes that they become “hints of hope”.
He shares his belief that the most important question is “What do we love?” He states that what we believe and how we live is formed by the way we answer that question.
This is a rich book. Read it slowly, and ponder what Garber writes. It will be time well spent.