Sunday, January 22, 2012

What does it mean to be called?

Standing in the communion circle this morning, after all too many Sundays away,  I found myself thinking about the sermon topic (being called -- when our hunger meets the world's need) and staring at this beautiful and unusual floral arrangement (I apologize for the caliber of this photo, taken after the service with my iphone3) and then at the rug on the floor.

Our priest had mentioned that if our lives are easy and we are, for the most part, content, we are less likely to hear (or even if we hear it, to obey) a call.  Somehow that made me feel better about the sense of vague discontent that fills my heart these days; maybe it's preparing me for a change, for something new...

But I think the process of listening for a call (and I'm one of those people who's always longing for more clarity about that) is further complicated by our (or should I say, my?) assumption that a call, followed, will somehow make us/me more important, more famous; that if we are invisible to most of the world we either have not been called or have not heard and followed the "right" call; that we're just not "there" yet -- wherever "there" is.

But looking at the perfection of this arrangement -- at the perfect balance between grapes, oranges, eggplants and sticks -- I could see that removing almost any element would make it less pleasing.  Looking at the rug on the floor, a very plain grayish green, I can see that the yarns woven through it, though they vary slightly in color, are nonetheless quite similar, and disappear into the overall look of it.  But if any one of them were to be pulled away, or frayed, it would detract from the overall effect.  Each element of the arrangement is where it needs to be, and precious in that spot.  Each thread in the rug is where it needs to be, and perfectly fills the cradled web in which it rests.  What if whatever we're doing right now is what we're meant to be doing right now, and somehow contributes in a vital way to the web of life and community in which we rest?

What if being called does not mean called to stand out, but rather called to contribute; to become an essential part of a larger whole, a perfectly functioning cog in a larger wheel?  But then the question comes -- if you look at that bit about our hunger and the world's need, what if the hunger is to stand out, and the world's need is to see or hear what you have to say?   Does that mean that's a call?

Or, conversely, what if your hunger, like Jonah's in today's lesson, is to stay quiet and invisible, but you're hearing a call to stand up and speak the words no-one wants to hear?  What if following the call means leaving a safe and comfortable life for one where you might get thrown out of the boat to flail and flounder in a rolling sea?  Does the discomfort we suffer in following a call make that call any less valid?

Or what if the hunger is just for something different -- to stand out if you've been invisible, to become invisible if you've been visible, or just simply for a change?  Which hungers should we listen to, and which can we safely ignore?

I can think of several calls I've followed over the years -- the most obvious of which, to work for the church, led to both high visibility and major discomfort (with hypocrisy, not with the visibility).  Does that mean it was not a true call?  I don't think so.  I think it means that's where I needed to be then, and this is where I need to be now, and that was instrumental in leading to this.  But this may not be the end -- AND -- just because I am not doing THAT anymore does not mean I am not following a call or fulfilling my potential.  It only means this is where I am now.  And if I need to walk away from what I'm doing now, it will be just as clear as it was then that I needed to do that.

Sorry, this is a bit of a ramble.  But as I just told my daughter, who is in a new relationship and struggling with her tendency to overthink things, here is where we are.  And so I tell her, and myself --and you, as well, if you, too, are wondering now about what comes next and what we're supposed to do here -- try to relax into it and trust your instincts.  You'll know when the time is right what the next move needs to be, if you just stay open, keep listening, and trust.


Laurie said...

Great thoughts. Callings and how to realize them while keeping your freinds and family sane, is a subject of unending fascination for me. Sometimes the callings are purely internal exploration and understanding, sometimes external, as when you move your family 2000 miles from home. Not everyone acknowledges the discomfort and edginess that happens not only when you are called, but before you are called, much less that you don't have to be successful in the thing you are called to do, for the calling to have been meaningful and true.

Louise Gallagher said...

A great teaching. Thanks Diane -- I like, relax into it. Nice.