I found this story on the last page of The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspecive, by R. Paul Stevens. If, like me, you’ve ever wrestled with those topics in your own life, this book can help, along with his other books on the topic.
One of the desert fathers was approached by an eager young man who said, ‘Abba, give me a word from God.’ The wise mentor asked if the student would agree not to come back until he had fully lived the word. ‘Yes,’ the eager young student said. ‘Then this is the word of God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.”‘ The young man disappeared, it seemed, forever.
Twenty-five years later the student had the temerity to come back. ‘I have lived the word you gave. Do you have another word?’ ‘Yes,’ said the desert father. ‘But once again you must not come back until you have lived it.’ ‘I agree,’ said the student. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ said the desert father.
The student never came back.