This month’s blog series is “Discovering Our Call.” Last month we spoke about Gathering the graces. God graces us with all we need to be the person God uniquely created us to be. If we internalize and believe and trust that we are in fact uniquely created, uniquely gifted, uniquely formed, and uniquely called…we can more easily move into the person God created us to be.
When I’m at a loss, uncertain how I’ll cope, I’m not particularly fond of hearing, “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that God was the giver of this distressing, sometimes unfathomable event, leaving me to fend for myself. I don’t believe that. Sometimes we find ourselves on the receiving end of another’s actions, whether the hurt or damage we experience was intentional or not. Sometimes we grapple with harsh consequences of our own poor choices. Sometimes “stuff” just happens. We won’t know the why or how until we can ask God at the end of our time on earth. Yet I firmly believe in God called Emmanuel, God-with-us always, who is especially close during hard times.
So how do we get through these hard times?
Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that [they have] and buys that field.”(Mt 13:44) The Catholic Study Bible notes, “In the unsettled conditions of Palestine in Jesus’ time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.” What if one of the ways God is with us during difficult times is by encouraging us to return to our field and dig up gifts we buried there for safe keeping?
We each come into being in our mother’s womb gifted with a combination of temperament and physical characteristics, innate gifts and talents, that make up our unique genius. Some of our gifts were nurtured as we grew into adulthood, however some treasures, aspects of our genius, we buried, possibly quite deep if they seemed outside acceptable family and community norms.
The philosopher-poet David Whyte describes genius as:
“something we already possess; best understood in its original and ancient sense; describing the specific underlying quality of a given place as in the Latin Genius Loci, the spirit of a place. … The human body constitutes a live geography, as does the spirit and the identity that abides within it. To live one’s genius is to dwell easily at the crossing point where all the elements of our life and our inheritance join and make a meeting.”
When I am dwelling easily in the crossroads, I experience consolation, a sense of being accompanied by increases in faith, hope and love. However, when I move into a defensive posture, shutting down in desolation, pulling back, and unwilling to share the fullness of myself with others, I am helped by Jesus and others who call me back to myself, reminding me who and whose I am, beloved of God.
I’m a fan of the long-running British TV-series Doctor Who, a time lord exploring the universe in the TARDIS, a spaceship that appears to be a blue police call box, but opens up to reveal an infinitely large interior, taking her diverse crew on all sorts of adventures. A key element of the drama is the Doctor’s ability to regenerate, recreating a new body when the current one is damaged or aged beyond the ability for normal repair. So far thirteen actors have portrayed the Doctor, each new one asking the questions: What will I wear? What do I like to eat? Who am I now?
I’ve experienced my own ‘regenerations’, recreating my life at significant turning points. Completion of education degrees, career changes requiring relocations, marriage ending, a serious illness, a dear friend’s death. With each challenge and transition I had to discover or rediscover the inner resources required to live into my new call as the same-only-different me.
The present-me has needed to dig up rusty stage manager skills from my high school days, including adding cues and hand-offs to talking points in PowerPoint notes. These came in handy when running a dress rehearsal in preparation for an important online gathering of retreat and spirituality colleagues from Jesuit ministries in Canada and the US. I’ve also been aware of stretching my inherited and natural gift of hospitality, experimenting with how to cultivate a sense of welcome and belonging to community through technology. In lieu of Wednesday choir practice, I’m hosting a weekly ‘parish music makers’ gathering on Zoom. And I’m a Sunday regular for our livestream of the 10:30 a.m. mass on Facebook, using the comments to greet fellow online church go-ers, sharing links to the daily readings, prayers and hymns, and offering emoticon signs of peace with others.
Like the Doctor, we are each a genius traveling through space and time with generous, faithful companions, facing difficult situations and living different lives. Along the way we acquire skills and experiences that illuminate our genius. Through divine inspiration and the encouragement of others we claim and reclaim treasures that provide us as individuals, and as communities, the gifts we need to face every situation. We revel in ‘ah ha’ moments when we realize with joy: we are bigger on the inside than we ever imagined.
Ephesians, 4:11 “But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” How do we know what our gifts are?
- The Catherine of Siena Institute offers a program, “Called and Gifted,” a way to explore with others our spiritual gifts, both those we all have access to through baptism, the seven gifts of Holy Spirit, and those gifts we give away for the benefit of others, our spiritual charisms. See also this Spiritual Gifts Test I found helpful.
- A poetic way to explore what we inherited from family, and our natural gifts and talents is
Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon (1993) and NPR’s crowdsourced “Where I’m From” poem collecting memories of home.
- Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker J. Palmer, helped me reflect on my own life history as a way to understand how I might respond to God’s unfolding call.
- The Gift of a Year: How to Achieve Most Meaningful Satisfying Pleasurable Year of Your Life, by Mira Kirshenbaum, suggests creative ways to name and sort through dreams and desires.
Photo by Frances Gunn on Unsplash.