Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Beautiful Calling

I've begun to turn the corner from focusing on my last book, Say Yes to No, and now I'm moving into the next project on saying yes to our call and when we do it's a beautiful life. You might say I'm now on the yes side of the equation. This reflection isn't just going to issue into the next book (given the somewhat uncertain requirement that it will be published), but also it will be the basis for this Sunday's sermon ("Yes to the Best"), for a class I'm teaching in the winter (title uncertain, but theme is saying yes to God's call) and for an academic piece I've written (beauty as a motivation for theologians and scientists), to name just a few.

I can't remember if I've posted this before (and I'm a bit too lazy to review the archives), but I've continued to return to a quote by the writer, Frederick Buechner:
The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done…. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

I love that, and I'd love to put it in the next book. (The only problem is that, right now, the citation is over 50 words. And last time I used a citation of over 50 words--57 words to be exact--from a Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon, it cost me $500 for copyright release. That fact means I really paid about $70/word for those last seven. But I digress....) What Buechner leads me to is the amazing realization that God has created us well and that we find beauty, joy, and excellence when we do what we are created to do. That last statement in itself hardly represents anything novel, and so I'd better work a little harder before I unleash my insights on the world, n'est-ce pas?

One other thought: I've had some questions and comments about my Today show experience and the ├╝ber-chatty co-contributors at the roundtable. Sure, I would have loved to be able to breathe after I spoke and not be interrupted, and I had more to say. But as I've reflected on the experience, I realize that, most importantly, I did get an opportunity to put out at least a few of my ideas on national TV. And, honestly, I liked the bits I did say. (For what it's worth, I prefer the interview I did the night before on Business News Nightly. You can find it through Sympatico/MSN video.)

So, like much else in life, the glamour was highly mitigated by the reality of the grind and complexity that happens around and in such an event. After starting the day of the roundtable at 7am (4am California time), then of course doing the interview, the day ended by flying home that night on my Jet Blue flight, arriving at the Sacramento airport around 10:30pm and then making the 90 mile drive back to Chico. (The next day continued the fun as it found me moving my stuff to a new office.) While in the plane somewhere over Idaho, I suddenly was struck by a realization that this is one back-breaking, butt-load of work (not sure how those go together exactly). It's only worthwhile if there's a call--if you're not called to do it, then it's simply an enormous, overwhelming burden. I'm thankful I like to communicate, whether through writing, speaking, or teaching. That indeed is my calling. When I do it with the right end in mind--fulfilling the way God has created me--then it is a beautiful calling indeed.

And so I end where I began.