It happened as most of these conversations happen.
I was sitting in the front hall of the elementary school waiting for my son to get out of an afterschool program. As I sat there the woman next to me, known to me previously only as “Max’s Mom”, chatted with me about all the things that mothers of second graders chat about. Eventually we got around to the dreaded question: “What do you do?”
This question is asked in various iterations depending on the context of the conversation and the level of political-correctness required, of course, and I do not recall how she asked it, but the occasion arose for me to reveal my party-killing vocation. As I mumbled under my breath something like, “IamapastorwhatdoYOUdo?” . . . I could see her eyes light up.
(This is not the normal reaction of strangers to this little detail about my life.)
She then revealed HER vocation as a seminary student preparing for ministry. I just remember feeling giddy with joy. Who would have thought I would find a kindred spirit in the front lobby of Sam’s school??!? Comparing notes later both of us reported that we went on and on at dinner that night with our families about the amazing coincidence of finding another minister in the school lobby. Our boys, who were great friends already, just counted it another shared interest.
Since that conversation several years ago I have gotten to know my friend Megan Foley much better. She has ministry gifts in excess and a powerful calling to live and share. This Sunday she was ordained in a beautiful service, during which a colleague read her reflection on call. In it I heard the wonderings of my own journey expressed so beautifully.
With her permission, I share it here, and celebrate with my friend, Max’s Mom, Rev. Foley.
What is this thing known as a calling, anyway?
What is a call, really?
Is it a way of matching your skills to the job market?
Can you find it in an employment guide?
Is it a multiple choice test that tells you what type you are and where you’ll find others just like you from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday?
Is that where you find your calling?
Is a calling a feeling of joy, of completeness in your work?
Is it what Karl Marx thought we lacked when he said we were alienated from our labor?
Is a calling a way of saying,
“This is part of me, this thing I’ve created. This thing you see here – it’s a way of seeing me.” — ?
Is a calling straight from cherubim and seraphim,
Is it burnt lips and angels singing,
Is it a direct command and expected obedience?
Is it a voice in the night, a whisper through the dark, so compelling that you eventually find yourself saying, “Here I am; send me!”?
Or is your calling the work of the thousand arrows of your life,
the arrows that point to your hometown and your family,
the ones that point to your education and that weird summer job,
the ones that point to your greatest weakness and your greatest strength,
the one that points to the darkest moment of your life,
and the one that points at your most profound joy –
all these arrows of yours coming together in a way you never thought possible,
coming together to point at a path you never saw before,
a path suddenly flooded with light,
a path suddenly garlanded with your name?