I haven’t blogged in three years. Since moving to California, I’ve wanted to listen, not speak, and it turns out I’m a terrible listener. The last few years have been an arid wandering, beautifully disordered, tracing paths over rugged craters more desolate than my imagination had been courteous enough to depict. The martian surface of recent life has changed me, and now I sit here at Copa Vida, with much to say.
A few weeks ago I was accepted for ordination at Rose City Church. I am excited and afraid, that famous pair, and have decided to write about the experience as it unfolds. While being vetted and prodded by the church board during my preliminary approval meeting, one of the members inquired about my “calling.” What a strange word, I remember thinking, a potentially destructive and abuse-enabling word. For me, the concept of “calling” can quickly warp relationships by imposing a power structure that diminishes one party and exonerates the other. How many of us have rolled our eyes at the person who claims to have been “called” by God to do this or that? Or have been caught in the monstrous wake of confusion and pain that a “called” person often leaves behind as they travel from life to life unsympathetically speaking the “truth” they were “called” by God to share? I, too, have been guilty of claiming that I speak for God, or that my words regarding a particular matter or situation are “the truth God wants you to hear.” What an arrogant position.
For me, “calling” is as elusive as the Kingdom of God. It’s like water, or wind. You can never truly define it, it’s always moving, always going somewhere, always changing, always growing. And so you keep chasing it because you want to figure it out, because that’s how we humans are. It’s sort of like searching for something hidden in a field somewhere, and you never give up.
And actually, it’s that very pursuit that makes “calling” real. It’s the commitment to stay in, to keep searching, whatever the cost. “Calling” is about not giving up. It’s about acknowledging the base impulse that has been planted in you, rather than ignoring or suppressing it. There have been times in my life when I respected and followed that base impulse, and times when I muzzled it. But it’s always there, beckoning, pulling us on, drawing us forward. “Calling” is the gravitational engine that drives the solar system of our daily routines. It’s our personal legend. It’s why life covers the earth, thriving in the extremities of everywhere.
So am I “called?” I would say I am being called. Someone or something from somewhere is calling to me, and I am trying my best to make my way toward whatever that is. Perhaps my seminary entrance essays and these thoughts here will help answer the question in a clearer way.
One last thought – I can see now that arid wandering is the embryo of being called. It may feel like an eternity of pain and confusion in the present, but the present is always shifting, always moving, going somewhere, changing. Like water. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.”
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