Thursday, September 25, 2008

Discerning Your True Calling

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble.”
2 Peter 1:11

“No way, Mom,” said my two-year-old, in a frank tone.
“Yes way,” I replied.
She was not being defiant, and I was not encouraging argumentative. We were having a little exercise in independent thinking.

I can clearly remember myself playing a similar game with my own mother. Two of my favorite phrases were “no way”, and “yes way”. The fact that I am able to say both “yes” and “no” are partly attributed to her good humor and her wisdom in the fostering my voicing of both important decisive words.

Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psycho-social development always rang true with me. The second psychosocial crisis involves learning Autonomy vs. Shame, between about 18 months or 2 years and 3½ to 4 years of age. Resolving this stage results in a proper feeling of pride and self control, rather than a feeling of guilt or shame. It occurs to me now that many women must not have resolved this stage properly, and thus in adulthood are constantly feeling pulled in too many directions. They feel “spent” while also feeling that they are “not doing enough”.

During my homeschooling years I was rather involved in several volunteer activities. After the conception of my fourth child, I had to refocus all of my energies on the health of myself and my newborn child, while continuing the end of that current year of homeschooling. I looked back on the past in awe at the time and energy I had had to devote outside of the home. How ever had I done it? As I dropped out of the world of volunteerism, and made myself less available to help others in need, some were understanding, and some were not. I had changed – what a shocker!

“God has a purpose for all of us, and from time to time that purpose must change,” my father assured me.

I knew what my priorities were, and was not ashamed to say NO. For that time-being, any activity outside of the service of those inside my four walls received that same answer: NO.

As the children entered school, and the sign-up sheets were passed around, I quickly passed them on to the next person, with no twinges of guilt. God knew, my family knew, and I knew what services I had given in the past years. I needed a few months to feel out this new life and see what, if anything, I could give.

I looked on the oft-volunteers in a new light, now that I was not one of them. There were some who seemed to step up to the plate more than others, chairing multiple committees. They were energetic, but tired at the same time. I wondered if they had anything left to give to their families at the end of the day.

Now that my toddler has become more independent and we have gotten into the swing of family life with four children, I have found I do have more pockets of free time throughout the day. I use those to read, write, or pray. Lately I also discovered opportunities to be a shoulder and prayer warrior for those in great need, just by being in the right place at the right time with an open ear.

We are in the midst of the track and cross-country season, with lots of chauffering to meets – and more calls to volunteer. I am asked to contribute to bake sales, fundraisers, and snack time at school. I revisit my list of priorities yet again and ask the questions so many women must ask themselves repeatedly:

Am I allowed to have some free time during the day?

What activities do I give my time to without sapping the energies I need to give to my family?

What about time I need for prayer and reflection?

Am I being called by God to minister in this area?

The ability to discern is addressed in great depth by St. Paul in I Corinthians. “The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.” (I Cor. 2:16) I encourage you to read the first four chapters of this book while prayerfully reflecting on what God is calling you to do at present.

While pondering this topic, I read from a book of rhymes before putting my toddler in for her nap. I was puzzled by this one’s shockingly negative ending and had to re-read it. I thought of how some can lead enthusiastic youngsters on a foolish mission, causing them to fritter away their gifts and energies and perhaps lose sight of their true callings. In this story, the poor victims are literally eaten alive. I will end off with this classic, imploring my readers to heed your true calling.

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"
"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.


Loren Christie said...

An interesting topic...What inspired you to think about discernment and callings?

I love Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In fact, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on how the books reflect a person's journey through the adolescent stage. There are so many layers to those books, they are fascinating for children and adults.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

It is a topic I think of everyday! I think as mothers we have so much on our plates that we must continually focus on our priorities and reset them from time to time.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

After the weekend I will post on Volunteering with Passion - the positive side of this topic.

Loren Christie said...

This is true...Looking forward to your post!

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Loren, I hope to see you write some of these revelations from Alice in your blog!

Marigold said...

Interesting to know.