Wednesday, July 21, 2004

In search of a vocation

listening to: Jeff comforting Allie

I'm titling this one in honor of Jimmy's fantastic blog, and the fact that he asked the other day what those of us reading were in search of.  My sense of calling is currently so ambiguous and elusive that I'm really struggling with the idea of going back to school.  I love school, but with all the difficulties it is going to create having both of us take a full course load, it feels like I should have a clearer purpose for going than "because I like to learn".  Or "because in today's job market it is important to have a college degree".  Gag. 

Then I read Jen's post quoting Thomas Merton

"A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live. Thus, if one is called to be solitary,he will stop wondering how he is to live and start living peacefully only when he is in solitude. But if one is not called to a solitary life, the more he is alone the more will he worry about living andforget to live..."

It is obvious to me, reading that, that as stubborn an introvert as I am, solitude is not something I am called to.  Solitude allows my obsessiveness and melancholy too much rein.  I feel called to help people, to counsel them, speak words of healing and truth.  To listen to them.  To love them.  That last part, I think, disqualifies me from practicing psychology. 

I feel called to teach.  To communicate my deep sense of the love of God for the least of us, and to help us all develop a way of living in response to that love.  A way of living that communicates the love of God without a sermon, and better than words ever could.  In my experience, learning is a big part of teaching, and I feel called to that too.  I'm not much of a lecturer, though.  I prefer dialogue.  Being the "answer person" tempts me to pride; it also frustrates me.  So I don't see being a teacher as my gig, either.

I like to write, but it is something I cannot do without having events and people to feed the writing.  If I ever write a book, I guarantee you it will be non-fiction.  I love stories, but I can't write them.  So if I write, it will be secondary to my "real" job, and probably arise out of it.

Frederick Buechner said something to the effect that your calling is where the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness meet (forgive me for the paraphrase).  Jeff has had a strong sense of calling to become a pastor for about a decade now.  It's been confirmed by strangers, and as his wife, I've had more chances than most people to see how truly that calling reflects who he is.  What I can't see is my calling.  And people aren't exactly lining up to tell me, either. 

In feeling for the exact shape his calling will take, Jeff has always felt that he would be sort of a sidekick.  In a support role is, I guess, a more positive way of putting it.  In talking about it one night, I joked with him that we could start a church and he could be my second-in-command.  A light went on for him then, and it hasn't shut off since.  He says I am called to shepherd a church.  It is difficult, to put it mildly, for me to even seriously consider this.  The inner voices start clamoring.  "Who am I to-?  What makes me think-?  I'm hardly qualified, as screwed up as I am!"  But there is a small part of me that is excited to even consider it.  "You mean there's a job where I get to counsel, teach, help people, and love them?  This has to be too good to be true."

So I am trying to leave a space for the idea.  Because if he's right, I'd hate to let my insecurities stop me from doing the things I love.

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