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Posts Tagged ‘calling’

I am not talking about occupation, just to be clear.

The etymology of vocation goes back to the middle ages and has its roots in vocacioun which loosely means “summons.” Others often use the term “calling.” As soon as that word comes along, people get all religious about it: called to be a pastor or a priest or a nun. It’s some spooky thing a person hears and is led to sacrifice and surrender. I remember the first time I heard about calling after becoming a Christian and shook in my boots for fear of being called to Africa. (This is ironic now that I have delighted in volunteering at the Village of Hope in Zambia in recent years.)

self discoveryBut how does vocation manifest in the lives of regular people? Or does it? Is it a call from God even if the person is not a believer? There is no doubt in my mind that this is so. I can think of no other reason that a person would follow a passion for art (rarely accompanied by financial gain) or service to the poor and disenfranchised or an becoming an unpaid “first responder” or a master gardener or, of course, a true follower of the Christ (or as some now reference God: the Divine).

I have been reading a number of books lately that are catapulting me into my own search (despite my senior citizen status and my nearly 40 years as a believer). If anyone is interested, I recommend Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer, The Second Mountain by David Brooks, or The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner, or Walking in Wonder by John O’Donohue. In one form or another, they discuss vocation in terms of self-discovery. But the most important feature in my mind is the idea that vocation (or giftings of the true self) are planted within and are waiting to pair with “need.”

All of these years, I have felt guilty for not actively taking my faith into the streets, befriending the homeless, feeding the poor, visiting the elderly or sick, serving in prison, or teaching children. These are all such wonderful good works. Out of that guilt, I have dabbled in all of these, but I have never really connected to the work. These are all great needs. In fact, our world will never lack need for human compassion and outreach. At one time or another, we all need help, we all fall or fail or suffer. And there will always be people who have it worse than us, whose lives teeter on the brink of death or survival.

What is my vocation in the face of need? What is specifically the perfect match between who I am and what my unique self can bring to the table of scarcity? Day by day, I rest in the certainty of threads being woven together, not just for what lies ahead but also incorporating what has already gone before. Nothing is wasted in God’s time.

“Today I understand vocation quite differently–not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”  –Parker Palmer

“. . . because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” [2nd Timothy 1:12b

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Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. [Matthew 4:1, The Message]

wild placesOnce it’s clear that God has something for you to do, there’s little doubt that a time of testing will come along just to make things interesting. That testing may start quietly, like a little voice in your head, like Eve’s serpent whispering, “Did God really say that?” Maybe you misunderstood. Look around. These circumstances sure don’t support that plan.

Or, maybe the testing is more like the day you decide to clean out the hall closet to get it organized, and what do you get first? The biggest mess ever! That’s right. Before there is order, there is chaos. The job just got bigger than you expected.

Or, maybe you decide to get ready for the test and study hard: read the Book, take notes, create flash cards, memorize key points, arrive early with pencils sharpened and coffee in hand. And still, despite all that preparation, none of the test questions are the ones you expected. [In one of my morning comics, the teenager comes out of class and bemoans, “Why am I never tested on the things I know!”] Doesn’t work that way in the wild.

Artwork by Michael Perchard

Here’s what I know about the wild: it’s rarely what you expect it to be and the timing is usually less than perfect. The wild is called the wild for a reason: untamed, uncultivated, unrestrained, and unchecked. In this particular wild, you are asked to depend on your faith, not your wily smarts or superman strength or clever answers. In this wild, paradox reigns supreme, where less is more and waiting wins.

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