I still remember the day when I first saw that there were identifiable habits of heart that marked people who kept at it, who over time sustained their deepest convictions about life and the world as they lived in the world. Over several years I had been listening to people who were beyond “the valley of the diapers,” and who hadn’t given up what they once had seen as “most important,” but rather had deepened their reasons for being as they moved from adolescence to adulthood.
Over many hours of conversation, a tape recorder remembering every word, I began to hear the same things, again and again. A worldview. A mentor. A community. Woven together, these strands nourished a way of living that made it possible to keep on keeping on.
What I heard was this: 1) in my 20s, navigating the challenge of pluralization and secularization, I began to understand that “truth is woven into the very fabric of the universe” (as one person put it to me), forming convictions about life and the world that still make sense of my life in the world, 2) in those same years I chose to learn from someone(s) who allowed me to see that the beliefs I was forming were actually true to life, the “over-the-shoulder, through-the-heart” deepest, truest learning, and 3) I chose and chose again a community to live in and be part of where my commitments were embodied, and so my faith became a common faith, my hope a common hope, and my love a common love.
There were no exceptions.
And I eventually wrote all this down in “The Fabric of Faithfulness,” which has now been read by many people in many places. Yesterday Bob Robinson, good man that he is, sent me something he wrote in the High Calling that confirmed my study, and of course it intrigued me. As he listened, he heard what I heard, which is not surprising. What I have long argued is that I didn’t discover anything; rather I saw something that was “there” to be seen, and wrote about it. So in a way it was more inductive, than deductive—though I think the most honest learning is always a mysterious mixture of both.
So, I hope you enjoy Bob’s good work here, learning as his friend reflects on the challenge of deepening and sustaining one’s vocation over the years of a long life.