Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How I got to H Street, Part I: On the Insanity of "Calling"

A "calling" is a funny thing. The first funny thing about a "calling" is the term itself; it's the Christian terminology for the idea of a vocation,* but vocation with fangs. I say with fangs, because if it's a calling, it won't leave you alone, it will keep you up at night, it will go away for a little while and then come back with a later and say, at first very sweetly, "Listen. Stop running. You know you were created to do this." If you keep ignoring it, then it gets a little louder. And a little louder. Until one day, you can't ignore it anymore, and you say, "FINE." And despite the pain that comes with change, you wonder why you hadn't been doing it all along.

Everyone has a calling; I believe that firmly, because I've seen what happens when people follow a calling. Callings aren't just for the professionally religious, but are, at heart, a human experience. Some people get their callings young; some people get them when they are middle-aged; some people only find them at the completion of their lives. To believe that people are called to a purpose is audacious because it implies 1) that there is an order to the universe, albeit a creative, creating one and 2) that you were intentionally created the way that you are, because 3) your presence is a gift to the world. To believe in these three premises, and then to believe that what you do really matters, is insane. But I believe it anyway. I believe it because I've seen, in others, a calling that brings love and joy to the world like a ticker tape parade. I believe it because I've seen, in others, a calling that brings love and joy to the world in the quiet of a conversation, a healing touch, an imparted inspiration.

I make no claims about my own ability to bring love or joy in any capacity, but what I can claim is that callings are crazy, and sometimes not at all what you think it would be. I know, because it happened to me. If you would have asked me, going into seminary, what my calling was, I would have told you it was probably not in a church, it was probably going to be in an academic setting. As such, I took New Testament Greek for the whole year. As such, I decided that I would start taking upper-level New Testament classes my first semester of seminary. As such, I took an entire semester class on the letter to the Galatians, reading hundreds of pages weekly on six chapters of scripture. As such, swimming in the Greek and the historicity and the apocalyptic antinomies and the Hebrew Scripture references, my mind was opened in a way it wasn't before. As such, for the first time in a very long time, my tiny black raisin heart (atrophied by intellectualizing everything I touched) cracked open. Just a little bit. But it was enough to let that little bit of a whisper of something new come in.

And so, by the time I graduated, taking more and more Scripture and translation classes, thinking that they were still the answer to my calling, yet every single one nudging me more into a new way to be, my calling had shifted. I had been called, at least for the foreseeable future, into a new adventure that was not more school. I couldn't just read Paul anymore to read Paul, and I couldn't study the Gospels just to study the Gospels, and to sound knowledgeable about theory. What Paul had to say, what the Gospels had to say, is radical and life changing and nothing at all like the namby-pamby Precious Moments pious BS that gets marketed to well-meaning middle America. It's also not merely an intellectual exercise in the history of thought. It's way more than that, and I had been caught up with it.

*Side etymology note: vocation actually comes from the Latin vocare, 'to call,' so this whole thing is more wrapped up in tautology than I had originally intended, but the definition stands.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Becky, I truly enjoyed this post! :) Keep on keepin' on!