Yesterday I read chapter six in Chittister’s book, “Called to Question” – which focuses on being called. She anchors this reflection in two snippets of scripture:
“For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29)
“You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Spirit of God.’ (First Peter)
From this chapter I launched into what I thought was going to be a reflection on being called. I ended up going elsewhere with that reflection and so return today to the notion of being called.
Chittister says, and I agree:
“…everybody lives to do something that only they can do. Everyone of us is called, by virtue of what we love and what we do well, to give something to the world that will bear the stamp of our presence here. We are called to add something to the creation of the universe.”
The baptism rite in the Episcopal Church, and the teachings about baptism, point to this same concept – we all are called and we all are gifted by the Spirit. I said as much in my homily on Sunday when we celebrated Pentecost and a baptism. Holding a more expansive understanding of God’s action and Spirit in the world, I think that all people are called and imbued with the Spirit. As Christians we simply see that calling through the lens of Christianity, of what God is doing through the Trinity. Other faiths have their lens, and those who proclaim no faith (which was my mother’s understanding for much of her life), still have a calling but might describe it as their strengths.
In response to her statement quoted above, Chittister asks, “How?” and responds, “By using what there is in us that we do best.”
The road to understanding what we do best is a winding path – which takes us down some faulty trails, some rocky terrain, and makes for rough navigation. Maybe we think we have taken a wrong turn. Maybe we are devastated from a portion of the journey that hurt us and turned out badly. The search is relentless, the finding incomplete.
All because the search itself is the essence of life – a search for the true self.
(now you may see why, yesterday, I thought I was going to write on the search for true self and the naming of my blog….and well, because I write as I think, it ended up going elsewhere…)
Chittister claims that the road that goes to the self is the same road that leads to God. – Isn’t that a provocative statement?
Aren’t we taught to move beyond the self in order to find God? Curious. Because I think she means both – the road to the self is not a road of self-absorption, but a road of finding and naming who we are in God, and how we, each of us, is contributing to the ongoing act of creation and recreation of life itself. Because – God has called us, named us, and given us the gifts to do so.
“Call sinks its talons into our hearts. The awareness that we are yet meant to do more than we are signals where God lies in wait for us to become what we are meant to be.”
Following this trajectory, Chittister states that (in my words) that Spirituality is greater than we are and drives us to find our most authentic self. We are to, as Thoreau wrote:
“Step to the music we hear, however measured or far away…”
Chittister claims that if we are to be spiritual people we must recognize that life is meant to be a growing ground in God. All of life is a growing of ourselves in God. When we are unable to recognize this, unable to nourish our spiritual lives, in whatever tradition speaks most deeply to us, we experience a sense of being lost. Even Carl Jung believed that each of us has a great hole inside our being that yearns to be filled with God. Our efforts to fill that void, that hole, that hunger, with anything other than God leaves us malnourished and unsatisfied: money, wealth, food, drink, drugs, exercise, sex, clothing, and so forth – are meant to enhance our well being and participate in living a healthy life – but they are not the purpose of life.
The purpose of life is growing ourselves in God. And God has given us the means to do so, simply by recognizing our strengths and gifts and living into them. Maybe you have the gift of negotiation? Perhaps you have the gift of turning words into powerful story? Perhaps you have the gift of abstract thinking? Perhaps you have the gift of compassion? Perhaps you have the gift of diplomacy? The gifts are endless. The purpose though is one, recognizing your gift and using it to build up the world, build up and sustain creation justly, with love and compassion, maintaining integrity of self and others, and respecting the dignity of all.