16 June 2008

The serious vocation post.

During last week's FTE Conference, I had a lot to mull over. Spending every hour with this group of seminarians yielded almost endless opportunities for hearing other people's stories and thoughts on ministry, and for having people listen to my own story and thoughts. It probably sounds lame to anyone reading this, but trust me when I say that it was a really fruitful and meaningful time for me. Ever since I finalized my decision to go to divinity school in December 2006, I have been in a sort of holding pattern in terms of my vocational discernment. Just getting myself into an M.Div. program was a major step, and I deserved a break from "figuring it out." Last week's conference injected some new energy into that exploration for me.

I feel confident now in saying that I have a calling to serve the church. There's just nothing I care about more, and no greater need that I can see. I'll be continuing to hash out what that means professionally, but it feels good to shed some of the contingency with which I have spoken about all this up until now.

One of the things I heard multiple times from friends at the conference last week was that I have gifts I need to claim or embrace, and that I'm more cautious, hesitant, or self-deprecating than I ought to be. That's a hard thing for me to adjust, because I really do strive for humility. But it reminds me of a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written a month before his execution. Not great poetry, but powerful nonetheless.

Who am I?

They often tell me I would step from my cell's confinement

calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I?

They often tell me I would talk to my warden

freely and friendly and clearly,

as though it were mine to command.

Who am I?

They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune

equably, smilingly, proudly,

like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of,

or am I only what I know of myself,

restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,

yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,

tossing in expectation of great events,

powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once?

A hypocrite before others, and before myself

a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

1 comment:

liz said...