No time for a long post this week, as I have three shows at two different schools on the Eastern Shore tomorrow, and have a 6 am call. I should have hit the hay half an hour ago. I do children’s theatre with Children’s Theater Association, and tomorrow is Maryland, My Maryland, our show about Maryland history.
I finished Thomas Merton‘s The Seven Storey Mountain today. I absolutely loved it. It got me thinking about the topic of vocation. A vocation, or “calling,” is part of the life we are each given to lead. It’s similar to the idea of one’s purpose in life. But in secular American culture, when we think about our purpose, we generally think of something we have chosen ourselves, the one thing we want to do above all else – “following our dream,” “following our bliss.”
But the idea of vocation presented in Merton’s book is not a purpose we have claimed for ourselves. It is a purpose that has been chosen for us, by Another. The only way to find “bliss” in this life is to die to our own ideas of what we want our vocation to be, and instead submit totally to the vocation to which God calls us. There may be significant overlap; there may be no overlap.
Merton at first wanted to be a writer, and wrote to satisfy his own ambitions. Who knows anything much about those writings? Later, he wanted to be a contemplative, and writes in the final pages of the book about how Merton the writer, like a “Judas,” shadows and betrays Merton the monk, who wanted nothing so much as to retreat completely from the world. “And the worst of it is,” he writes, “he has my superiors on his side.” I thank his superiors for encouraging Merton the writer, who could only come to full fruition and redemption after Merton the monk had died to his own desires. And now we are able to know Thomas Merton, Frater Louis, the writer-monk whose books and life have borne much fruit. God only knows how fruitful his prayers have been.
Now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve e-mailed the priest who recommended it to me to see when we can meet to talk about it. I’m sure the subject of vocation will come up. I’ve been thinking (and worrying, I admit) the last couple years, ever since I left grad school and for the first time did not have a clear path laid out for my life, about what I want to do with my life. Merton’s book has reminded me that that’s not the proper question.
The proper question is: Who is God calling me to be in this life? And how does He want me to serve Him today?
That’s the hardest question for any Christian, because we have to give up everything we want to find that out.