Knowing Your Calling (5 of 5)

You may have heard it said that survival is our strongest impulse. But consider this — if life has absolutely no purpose other than survival, then survival would be better understood as a cruel prison sentence. Because if life has no meaning or significance, then there can only be despair and disillusionment – making the mere subsistence of survival little more than a burlesque absurdity, ever mocking our very existence. So in this regard, it isn’t our survival instinct that propels us forward – it is the all-consuming belief that life must have purpose and meaning, and that the significance of our life is best found in the role we play within this greater purpose and meaning.

“The point of life isn’t just to live – but to live for something, definite” ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky. “I want to find a reason for which I can live and die” ~ Soren Kierkegaard. “I want to find the answer to the question, which underlies all other questions—what am I here for?” ~ Abraham Heschel. The constant undertow of the ocean that is philosophical thought is obsessed with this very question of why. And whereas, this question is expressly a teleological question, to be sure – it undeniably finds each one of us in our beds at night staring at our ceiling . . . distilling down to the question – “So, what am I supposed to do about it . . . what am I called to do?”

Now, there is no shortage of books offering various strategies and metrics for how you might determine what you’ve been called to do. Never mind that most of this advice maintains a modernity paradigm that attempts to pair your marketable attributes (gifts and talents) with a consumerist presupposition about what their value might be – all of which ends up gutting the whole idea of being called of any of its mystic faith quality . . . completely forgetting that being called inextricably requires an enigmatic voice that calls.

downloadNothing has so plagued my faith sojourn as much as this topic. Because as an artist you either enjoy the celebrity of popular acceptance, where your calling is unquestioningly validated. Or you are relegated to being the resident dancing monkey, capable of doing a few clever artistic parlor tricks, but not quite marketable enough to be considered a real calling. In other words, in a world where we ask one another — “So, what do you do for a living” . . . there isn’t much of a place for someone like me, convinced I’m called to do things which aren’t really measured by gainful employment and occupational prestige. No doubt this is why well-intentioned friends often have trouble understanding what motivates me.

But I’m convinced that our calling has far more to do with how God made us than the utilitarian value of what we can do. That being comes first – then the doing. Os Guinness offers us this insight “Calling is not only a matter of being and doing what we are but also of becoming what we are not yet but are called by God to be.” Which seems to be framing calling as more dynamic than static. In this respect, following our calling is inseparable from the process of becoming the person God is making us. Therefore, knowing your calling always begins with tuning into God’s presence in your life . . . because it is his presence in your life that becomes the substance of his calling on your life.

Here’s one of my favorite songwriters, Mac McAnally explaining the part that attitude plays in appreciating our calling . . .



Knowing Your Desire (4 of 5)

The heart wants what it wants – or else it does not care” there is a beguiling simplicity to this Emily Dickinson quote. At first blush the understanding of it seems conspicuously apparent, but as the mind begins to turn it over, it seems less likely to be about the capricious nature of our emotions, and may actually be suggesting that our emotional state has a much more predictable under current – by design a current meant to take us somewhere . . . somewhere only our deepest longings can identify.

When we are hungry, or thirsty, or sleep deprived, we don’t see these so much as emotions in and of themselves, but rather as desires that drive emotion. These are examples of physical want, which when left unaddressed become the singular focus of your heart and mind. You don’t have to think about it – the desire becomes so overwhelming and self-evident, it’s desire on autopilot. What we learn from these primal desires is that desire is meant to be reconciled . . . and not merely to remain as an open ended emotional state.

But what of those unsettled desires that we’re unsure of even how to name? Because we all have a resident longing we’ve learned to compensate for, either through addiction or distraction. A restless desire, preoccupying the subconscious mind, a steady under current pulling us along — never quite satisfied, ever seeking, ever reaching . . . insatiably. It is that primal longing to be truly known and truly loved – with a kind of knowing that is capable of penetrating our multitudinous layers of subterfuge, with an unflinching love that can not be dissuaded.

mass-desireBy faith, I identify the object of this desire, as God – but because such an explanation is often couched in the antiseptic cognition of modernity, it gets conveyed as a form of propositional knowledge, lacking the visceral engagement of our desire. So we turn to sentimentality in order to compensate for our lack of visceral experience, which allows all of our other competing desires driven by sentiment to create an amalgam out of God—a god who values our happiness above all else.

But in the psalms, David seems held transfixed, describing his desire for God in terms that closely mirror physical want – hungering and thirsting after God, losing sleep in his deep longing for God’s presence. And Jesus describes himself as the bread of life (John 6:35) and living water (John 7:38) – inviting us to partake of him . . . and not merely the idea of him. But what if these are more than metaphors? What if the good news of the gospel is far more than a proposition about God to which we give mental assent? What if engaging God wasn’t filtered by our vain intellect, or our foolish sentimentality, but rather was found in the communion of his presence? Then desiring him above all else would be more like a thinning of the walls dividing heaven and earth . . . so that our knowing of him might be intimate — so that the whole of our desire might at last find true satisfaction.

This is from my Chiaroscuro Collection

It’s Always You                        

Out of the whispering dark of night
Into the fragrant light of morning
I feel my heart grow light
But still the ache, the ache of longing
I long for you
It’s always you

Wade into the shallow of the day
The shifting tide of afternoon
A borrowed light to guide my way
Enough to trace a silhouette of you
An image of you
It’s always you

The healing song of evening
Seducing the mystery of the dark
Translates the eloquence of breathing
A simple refrain ignites the spark
That starts with you
It’s always you

Every day measured in this way
Everything held captive to this thought
As if woven deep into my DNA
The culminating threads of all I want
Are found in you
It’s always you