Sunday, January 1, 2006

the mystery of vocation….

On this first day of the New Year I want to look forward to new beginnings, new resolutions, new challenges, probable good fortune and hopeful life changes. My wife read her journal entry to me today and in it she expressed the same desires, but also stated the flipside of things in a most conspicuous way.

She said, “Putting aside the old, always brings to mind the coming winter depression and that everything is still the same; how we are in a rut and haven’t been to church for a month.” She goes on to reflect on more than a few events and discouragements of the past year, not the least of which is a failed business venture, illness, hindered plans to move (the sale of our house fell through three times), and this preventing us from following through with the sale of our business and me attending seminary fulltime.

That should sum things up, but standing out against these things my wife also recognized the countless celebrated and sacred moments of the past year. I ask, why have I allowed the difficulties and disappointments of the last twelve months to overshadow so many marvelous things? For me it has been the mystery of vocation…

About three years ago I had lunch with a friend. I had what seemed like a difficult decision to make about an issue at work and I thought I needed to ask for some business advice on the matter. Like a Rogerian therapist she listened to my complaints until I had exhausted the subject and then I asked her what I should do. She said, "Darren, do you hear what you've been saying?" She went on to inform me that I already knew the answer to my question. I just had to get beyond the obstacles and objections and make the only reasonable choice. She was right, and at that moment I made what has proven to be the best decision; I implemented the change when I returned to my office.

With the business question out of the way I surprised myself by telling this same friend about the dramatic change that had come over my life since I re-embraced the teachings of Christ. I tried to express how I feel; I am redirected, focused, experiencing a renewed joy for life and people. I am a new being, it is a new beginning, I am loved by the Creator and God has given me the Spirit of peace. She listened to what I had to say and with excitement she said, "Darren, do you hear what you've been saying?" I was startled by her reaction and asked her what she meant. My friend responded, “You’ve got the call!” I was stunned by her response and at the same time I was confronted with the truth of what she had said. What made this revelation feel like a bombshell is the fact that my friend claims to be an atheist.

Musicalbear_4It was through this experience and countless others that I began to acknowledge the mystery of vocation. Matthew Fox describes this mystery in his book, On Becoming a Musical Bear, “It is the mystery that one experiences when he says, ‘I feel I want to be a lawyer and work in legal aid,’ ‘I have to write,’ or ‘I feel called to minister the Gospel,’ or ‘I used to play around all the time until I began my own family and I love them so much I want to do everything possible for them,’ or ‘I must make music.’ All of these instances are what we might call ‘vocations’; that is, a ‘being called’ to one’s work or one’s contribution to life. That these callings are mysteries is evident from the very wording in which they are couched. They are convictions, imperatives, that invite one to respond positively. They bring about change in a person’s life or attitude toward life. They motivate and dispose him to dedicate himself. They are inescapable. They imply in every case some passivity on the part of the individual; that is, a claim that something happened to him (whether by words or events is incidental) that was bigger than he and drew him out of his tiny world into a bigger one” (45).

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