One of my favorite writers is Kathleen Norris, known mostly for her seminal work Dakota. In her follow up book The Cloister Walk she writes that “a prophet’s [calling] is to reveal the fault lines hidden beneath the comfortable surface of the little worlds we invent for ourselves, the national myths as well as the little lies and delusions of control and security that get us through the day.”
That is a calling of a tall order if ever there was one, and it brings to mind that to be a prophet (or a healer, a poet, an artist or a mystic) there is a definite sense of divine calling involved. To be such, we must be called (or sense the tug within) and feel called by God and led by Spirit into such lives.
Norris writes intensely and powerfully about “call” and “calling” in The Cloister Walk. Her writing reminds me how much I love it what a book comes to life, speaking intimately and directly to what I am living though. It is a “God wink” moment. My life is going though so much beautiful transition and this transition involves me embracing and surrendering to the tug within – that tug of the Spirit to live a called life – whispering that I am called to flesh out the divine life within through a specific vocation. My vocation and my avocation are becoming my occupation. And as the tug pull becomes more pronounced so too does the resistance therein.
The tug within is telling me not to fear the supposed arrogance of being called.
For indeed, many in our society think those who sense a purpose to a called life are a bit trite, arrogant, and above all presumptuous. How dare you say you are called to be a monk in the world or living a mystic’s life? Who are you to call yourself prophet, a healer, a poet, or a shepherd? How dare you assume the hand of God on your life?
Well, I say how dare you not live a called life! It is my personal opinion and experience that living an uncalled life is the same as what Socrates said about living the unexamined life – it is not worth living. In fact, it’s not life – it’s robotic.
Kathleen Norris goes on to say this railing against a called life “would explain our mania for credentials, which allows us a measure of objectivity in assessing our differences. Credentials measure what is quantifiable; they represent results.” Being called by God is not about results but listening and obedience.
I sense deeply in my heart that living a called life is a process, a dynamic relationship. A call is meeting, between pain and joy, hope and despair, fear and love – and it is my ultimate meeting with God.
And exactly just how does one “credential” a calling like that? Does my need for being a professional replace the hunger for passion, compassion, and mission?
According to the “world”, if I call myself a mystic, a shepherd, a poet, or a healer I am presumptive. And just exactly what are my credentials? Do I even need worldly credentials? But if you can call me poet, prophet, or a shepherd, then it becomes “acceptable” because you and society deem it so. Calling is an inward work with outward actions, not the other way around. I must never forget that truth.
Another question is who exactly is doing the “calling” (or better said, naming the calling) at this point? Me? God? The world? And just who has the authority to issue a call? For me, it is God alone, not any human being or even myself. I am merely the responder. Norris hits the heart just right when she says that when one is called, like a prophet, or a poet, we must surrender all human need for credentials, “accepting only the Authority of the call itself.”
I pray we can all muster the courage to be so authentic and follow the call in our hearts and on our lives.