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Many Jobs, One Calling: Women at Work

At 36 years old, as a mom of four, I accepted my first full-time job.

I’ve had plenty of part-time jobs in different settings, including several positions where I worked from home. I was primarily a stay-at-home mom for 12 years, yet even during some of those years I worked a few hours a week for a paycheck. But when I took a job that consumed much of my time each week, I had to start asking new questions about what it means to work and to be a woman in the workplace.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik’s Called to Cultivate: A Gospel Vision for Women and Work explores what it means to be a female employee in our modern age. Many books are available about work in general, but few address women’s specific questions. And fewer address the questions of women broadly, not just moms of little children. While it’s important to ask questions about maternity leave and toddler childcare, that’s not what I’ve needed. This book helped me to think through my changing vocations.

Variable Vocations

Some people describe calling as if it’s a one-time event, a lifelong mission given directly by God. This seems inaccurate in a world where most of us won’t work at one company for an entire career.

We need a different approach. Sobolik, director of government affairs for World Relief, writes, “Instead of asking, ‘What is my calling?’ a better question to ask yourself is, ‘What is my current assignment?’” (59). Throughout our lives, we’ll have different vocations; each one is a distinct assignment. In some years, that may be as a student; in others, it may be as a stay-at-home mom or a professional with career aspirations. And it might not happen in this order. These jumps to different assignments don’t detract from our greatest calling: to love God and make him known.

This approach gives so much freedom to women. Many women move in and out of the workforce multiple times, which can lead to a sense of confusion about our vocation.

For example, the strongest sense of calling I’ve ever felt was to the unreached peoples of India. I was certain my family would live in India. Then we had a child with significant food allergies that made overseas living unmanageable. I was disappointed my circumstances challenged the calling I’d been sure of. If my calling was one job I should do for the rest of my life, then twists and turns in my career could leave a sense of failure. But if I see my life as a series of vocational assignments that God can and will change, then that vision offers freedom.

If I see my life as a series of vocational assignments that God can and will change, then that vision offers freedom.

Sobolik calls readers to focus on faithfulness rather than on how we can’t fulfill our calling when we change roles. She argues, “Success, in God’s eyes, is faithfully following Him wherever He calls. This frees us up from feeling like the weight of the world is on our shoulders” (60). Women need a vision of following God faithfully as our assignment changes. Whether we change jobs, leave the workforce for a time, or enter back into it, our call is to love God and neighbor in whatever assignment he gives.

Dealing with Discrimination

Sometimes loving our neighbor means responding to injustice. Sobolik tackles hard questions about misogyny, which seem unavoidable in a book about work for women. When she was a Capitol Hill staffer, Sobolik lost her job because her boss resigned due to sexual misconduct allegations. She writes, “I had to pay the price of someone else misusing their power and authority in the workforce” (103–4).

Many women, however, face direct discrimination based on their sex or race. Sobolik shares the stories of real women who’ve faced discrimination at work. Their experiences of pain and loss are tragic; they aren’t just statistics.

Unjust discrimination based on sex is antithetical to our essential equality in God’s eyes. Discriminatory or abusive behavior has no place with people who profess the gospel. Sobolik observes, “Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He interacts with women, not based on their gender, but based on their common humanity” (106). Jesus values the humanity of the people he interacts with, and so should we.

Sobolik argues, “Our faith should compel us to speak up on behalf of persecuted and vulnerable people” (111). She provides practical guidance for approaching these hard conversations with human resources departments and other groups designed to help organizations do what’s right.

Balanced Approach

Sobolik offers a balanced introduction to the doctrine of vocation suitable for every believer. Yet it zooms in on gender-specific workplace issues. For example, she explores topics like salary negotiation—an area in which, statistically speaking, women struggle. Within her narrowed audience, Sobolik gives additional guidance for women in diverse seasons of life, which she doesn’t limit to motherhood seasons.

Unjust discrimination based on sex is antithetical to our essential equality in God’s eyes.

Most significantly, she holds out gracious hope for working women who feel there isn’t enough time for everything. She reminds us that Christians “don’t have to cram as much possible into our lives on earth, because our stories will continue” (140). This is exactly the message many women with multiple vocations need to hear.

Called to Cultivate encouraged me to think about my vocations as assignments from the Lord. Whatever season of life I’m in currently, this is where the Lord has me. He may change my assignment, but my calling is to be faithful where I am. This book reminded me of important questions to ask myself and my employer. It’s a great resource for women as we navigate the complexities of jobs, families, and the whole Christian life.


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