Agents of Vocation

In my PhD research about Christian variety performers, I am coming across a theme known as “agents of vocation.” That term comes from scholar Kathleen Cahalan, who found in her own research that “many people first experience a sense of ‘calling’ through another person.” Someone spoke into their lives in a way that led them to take up a calling. She calls those affirming voices “agents of vocation.” But the opposite can happen as well. There can also be people who “discourage or deny a calling that a person may hear” (Cahalan and Miller-McLemore 2017, Calling All Years Good, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, p. 19). I found the same theme in my research – people who speak into (or against) the callings upon Christian variety performers. And I found that those people are extremely influential and formative for the individuals who feel called (for better or for worse). I also found in one of my participants a story of an agent who served up both sides of the coin: he discouraged the performer early in life from chasing the calling of a juggler (the person thought he was crazy and wasteful with his master’s degree). But then twenty years later this same person apologized and said, “I’m glad I was wrong.”

You’re an agent in someone’s life. Consider how you can speak into that person and encourage them in their callings. You may see something about their gifts or calling that they have but haven’t yet named. And you could be the person to name it and nudge them in the direction of their God-given callings in life.

Stained glass piece by Atelier Miller, 2018. Juggling the Middle Ages, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. October 19, 2018 // Photo: Courtney Randolph

The above piece is based on the story of the Juggler of Notre Dame, a medieval tale about a juggler who discovers divine approval in his vocation as a performer despite antagonism from religious onlookers. The virgin Mary acts in the role of the “agent of vocation.”

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Dr. Jesse Joyner travels nationwide as a speaker and entertainer. His primary role is that of a performing juggler spreading joy and the love of learning to family and kids events. H earned his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their three kids - the perfect number for juggling children.