Swallowed by a Whale

Vocation

Swallowed by a Whale
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. It’s not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs. —Bill Plotkin [1]

Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. . . . That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. . . . I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity. —Parker Palmer [2]

I believe that the Book of Jonah can best be read as God moving someone from a mere sense of duty or career to a sense of personal call, vocation, or destiny. Notice that this vocation is almost thrust upon Jonah. It sometimes takes being “swallowed by a whale” and taken into a dark place of listening and discernment to let go of our small, separate self and its private agenda. Jonah had to be shoved out of the boat, or he would never reach Nineveh, the place to which God had called him. Eventually, we must allow ourselves to be drawn by our soul’s desire rather than driven by ego needs.

The motivating energies of ego and soul are very different. The soul’s impulse comes quietly and generously from within; we do not look for payment, reward, or advancement because we have found our soul gift, our inherent gladness. To be an oblate—someone who is offered—is quite different from seeking security, status, or title.

Listen, wait, and pray for your unique gift, your True Self. Meditation should lead to a clarity about what you are and, maybe even more importantly, what you are not. I have found it difficult over the years to tell people when something is not their gift; it is usually very humiliating for the person to face their own illusions and sense of entitlement. One sign that something is your vocation is that you would do it for free, even if there is no reward or social payoff. This clarifies a vocation quite quickly.

Parker Palmer writes:

How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity—the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation. . . .

Today I understand vocation . . . not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God. [3]

References:
[1] Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (New World Library: 2003), 13.

[2] Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey-Bass: 2000), 4.

[3] Ibid., 9-10.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014), 82-83.

Image credit: Automat (detail), 1927, Edward Hopper, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
—David Whyte

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