By now some of you have been subjected to the “forced family fun” that is a company or organization retreat. For those that haven’t, allow me to explain. You and your coworkers head to a retreat center in the woods and engage in a litany of team-building exercises, many of which require awkward looking helmets and ill-fitting climbing harnesses.
Teams work together to accomplish a goal, getting from point A to point B. Many involve the dreaded tightrope, a steel cable of shame. A journey across a tightrope only a few feet above ground can be harrowing and exhausting. So much energy is exerted staying on the rope.
A former student astutely recognized this as an apt metaphor for her previous understanding of God’s call. If God’s call is a tightrope, there’s only one place to go and one way in which to get there, with virtually no margin for error.
No place to rest.
Thankfully, she’d grown into a healthier understanding of vocation, which she described as a canvas and a box of paints. It’s an image full of freedom, risk, and some healthy room for error. She could stop, look at the canvas and think. But a canvas also has some boundaries, which she found helpful. The paints are for the canvas, and the canvas is only so big. She possesses a unique palette of colors, and can mix them and allow them to interact with one another.
The ways in which we imagine our response to the call of God reveal so much. Walking a tightrope and painting a canvas are vastly different ways of understanding. They carry with them fundamental assumptions about who God is.
Granted, our understandings and descriptions of God are always insufficient. We can only know so much, and the rest we must chalk up to a glorious mystery. The best we can do is ensure that there is congruence in our views of vocation and God. After all, a calling requires a caller.
And if a calling requires a caller, it begs the question:
If you believe in a God who calls you into being, a God who calls you to lean into faithful dimensions of the good life, does your understanding of vocation flow from a healthy understanding of who God truly is?
My sincere hope is also that you experience a vocation that is good, compassionate, loving, helpful, generous and patient.
This doesn’t make it easy, or perfect, or fun all the time.
But with congruence comes a deeper sense of peace. Perhaps, a peace that passes understanding.
This week let’s all agree to step off the tightropes, pick up a brush, and paint.