Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Voice of Vocation

Led devotionals this morning with the AA Colloquium group. Spoke about my sense of call - past, present, future. Began with a "I cannot not do this" moment back at Evergreen in the late 80's, to something evolving from what I and others expect from myself during the early to mid-ministry years of my calling, to now gradually something that I listen for from within the contours of my own life and context.

Resonated at several points with Parker Palmer's journey chronicled in his book, "Let Your LIfe Speak" - a required read for my D.Min program at Northern Seminary. I shared the following quotes this morning with the other pastors, ways that Palmer's journey seemed to parallel my own:

Vocation at its deepest level is, “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.” (p.25)

Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like it to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for ‘voice.’ Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live – but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life. (p.4)

Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks – we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

Buechner’s definition starts with the self and moves toward the needs of the world: it begins, wisely, where vocation begins – not in what the world needs (which is everything), but in the nature of the human self, in what brings the self joy, the deep joy of knowing that we are here on earth to be the gifts that God created. (p.16)

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