Previous | Next

Spring 2017 · Vol. 46 No. 1 · pp. 113–114 

Book Review

Getting a Life: Living Your Call

Douglas B. Miller. Hillsboro, KS: Reader’s Press, 2016. 208 pages.

Reviewed by Irma Fast Dueck

The exploration and meaning of vocation has been receiving increasing attention in the past few years. This is not surprising as many young adults feel increasingly anxious, if not paralyzed, by the countless vocational choices available to them. For some authors, the foray into vocation is an attempt to provide practical help to young adults as they navigate the many vocational possibilities. The goal is to enable young adults to figure out and do what they want to do—that is, what career or occupation they ought to choose. For others like Miller, the engagement {114} with vocation is located within the broader Christian tradition of calling and discernment. (Indeed, the English word “vocation” derives from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.”) Thwarting attempts to reduce vocation to an inward, personal quest, they insist that it needs to be considered in the larger context of the Christian story of God’s mission in the world.

Miller begins Getting a Life by examining the basic issues of faith, Christian identity, and worldview. He roots these in an understanding of God’s plan/design for humankind as exemplified in the encounter Moses has with God in Exodus 5:22–6:8. The narrative testifies to four themes in God’s design: community, abundant life, relationship with God, and salvation. These themes emerge in various forms throughout the book and provide a constructive way of framing the notion of vocation.

Building on the concept of worldview and its vision of “the good life” developed in the first part of the book, Miller engages Christian identity and vocation in light of contemporary culture, postmodernism in particular, in the second part. It is interesting and refreshing that the link between vocation and occupation is only made explicit in the last few chapters, making it clear that from a Christian perspective vocation is much more than having a career—it is a way of engaging our call and mission in the world, which extends to all of life, in the world and in the church.

The book is ambitious and comprehensive in the host of subjects it deals with. The concept of Christian worldview and its definition of the good life is key to holding together its many themes, while Scripture gives them an anchor. Miller’s thoughtful use of stories further elucidates biblical concepts and meanings. However, the broad range of its topics is both the book’s strength and its weakness. While clearly geared towards a young adult audience, the book treats many topics superficially, perhaps to keep it from becoming ponderous. The challenge of properly balancing breadth with depth is made more difficult by Miller’s frequent use of taxonomies to explicate a theme, followed by only brief outlines of differing perspectives. For anxious young adults attempting to navigate the many facets of vocational decision-making, this broad approach does not provide the deeper reflection that might clearly identify the core issues at stake in considering Christian vocation and call. Having said this, the gift of the book is Miller’s unwavering insistence that call and vocation be rooted in the life of God, not as a onetime decision, but as an adventurous way of living in the world.

Irma Fast Dueck
Associate Professor of Practical Theology
Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Previous | Next