Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You Called?

Jeff mentioned narcissism in a comment on the previous post, and I was going to say more about that . . . along the lines of how it occurred to me just yesterday that while I've never wanted to be rich (just solvent), I think I've always wanted to be famous, though I can't think why. But . . . that's really all I have to say about it, at least right now. I could be verbally self-bludgeoning about the pride inherent in this, but it would probably only amount to another skewed demonstration of narcissism--which I'm too proud to indulge in right now. (Huh?)

So instead, I've decided to pose a question to you which came to me from Barry's comment on the same post. Barry said, "Achieving publication . . . is inarguably a vindicating sign. It is an evidence, at least, of gifting and skill, if not calling."

To which I retorted, "If it's a gifting, is it possible for it NOT in some way to be a calling?" (You can check this dialogue out below if you don't believe me.)

But then I started thinking about this, and I got about as dizzy as I just did above with the narcissism thing, so I thought I'd pose the question more broadly. Well--is it?

I mean, I used to have some skill with the flute. And some time around the turn of the year I decided I needed to re-hone this skill, but that little endeavour got sort of mowed down by Christmas and New Year's--or at least, that's my excuse. I'm aware I'm making an excuse about it, and I feel badly about it in the sense that I'm not sure I can successfully play "Syrinx" anymore, but I don't feel guilty about it in the sense of burying a gift in the ground. Whereas, with writing, I've had to journal since I was 13 or I would have exploded, but I don't feel that way about writing for the public. (Well, except for wanting to be famous enough so that everyone would want to read my--very boring, samey--journals after I died, of course.) However, I have spent a vast proportion of my not-so-vast life feeling somewhat under a cloud about the writing thing--as if I were squandering something by not spending it. But is a slight emotional malaise about something the same thing as a calling?

Is there a difference between a gift and a skill? And if there is, how do you know? And if something's a gift, does that instantly make it part of one's calling? And if it doesn't, why not?


heather said...

You have no idea how apropos this post is for me right now. Even tonight.
You see, I have the same dreams--not of riches but of notoriety, of having a name. Which is why I decided this year's prayer was that I would be insignificant.
I promptly forgot the prayer.
Until last night when I realized that all these endeavors, all these burgeoning areas of life were squashed, smashed, demolished, starving, withering (thesaurus anyone?). Why, God?
Then I remembered the prayer. What was I thinking?
And tonight, even tonight, I met with a friend. We talked about gifting and roles and what on earth are we supposed to do? (When I say "on earth," I mean that literally.) Can I give up and take a "normal" job and just enjoy life and forget all this fighting?
She said no. I can't.
I'm still not sure why not.
Maybe I'll blog about it.

Rhonda said...

oh boy this question is deep.
I think one can be skilled and even gifted and have it not necessarily be a calling.
I guess the only thing that comes to mind at the moment is, Paul was a tentmaker and I think he was good at it...but it wasn't his calling.
Now am I making sense?
Great post. Very thought provoking.

thesciencegirl said...

Thank you for the comment. I have a hard time fitting in blogging sometimes because I'm a med student and med school has a way of killing all fun in your life. :) I actually have a number of things in mind to review and hope to update soon. Thanks again for the visit.

Jenn said...

Heather--yes--please--blog about it. Because I'm all into the whole "high calling of our daily work" concept . . . except that I've spent my whole life trying not to get too roped into a traditional job. (I don't feel Starbucks is a traditional job--usually more of a transitional job for most people.) What is UP with this?

Rhonda--thanks for stopping by, and for giving your perspective. That was an intriguing thought about Paul and the tentmaking; it probably wasn't his calling, but he needed it to follow his calling . . .

thesciencegirl--welcome! Thanks for your visit, too!

Jeff said...

Wow. My head's spinning, too.
Let me try this on for size... I'm kind of thinking outloud here, so maybe this all ends up going nowhere...
On the surface, it seems like a gift comes from God and was probably given for some reason quite directly related to the ability.
The term "skill" strikes me as a little more neutral. Maybe there's a whole category of things we're skillful in. Some are gifts, others are not.
We might say that somebody is a skillful chemist if they are working in a meth lab. We'd be much more likely to call them a gifted chemist if they were working to cure cancer.

I wrestle a lot with the idea of God's calling and plan... Does He have a specific route planned out for us? Or just a general destination?
If there is one specific thing God expects of us, then it seems to follow that utilizing our gifts will be required. Our skills might be required, along the way, too. But these in a less direct way. Forexample, our skills might allow us to put food on the table while pursuing our gifts. (The old stereotype of the writer waiting tables while working on a great novel comes to mind.)
In short, if God's plans work this specifically, it seems like that a gift is part of one's calling.

I tend to veer toward the less orthodox position that God doesn't have one specific plan for us. He has hopes and expectations, but he's not to disimiliar from a really good parent. At my best, I don't care what my kids jobs are specifically. I simply want them to be happy, glorify God, and make the world a better place. (Good thing I'm not asking for much!)
If this view turns out to be right, I think the task of discriminating between skills and gifts gets stickier, but it also seems that one might be gifted without this gift being a calling.

I find myself wondering about the idea of being called on this account... What would that even mean if God doesn't have one specific plan... I have 2 theories.
A) Perhaps sometimes God intervenes with more specific plans and expectations than he generally holds. Though I might not care about my children's career paths in general, there might be times that I set up a specific summer job for them, knowing that some great good would be served by this.
B) Though on one level I might want only for happiness and holiness for my kids, I'm not sure if it's a bad thing for me gently nudge them in a certain direction. It wouldn't bother me if my 12 year old ended up as a plumber. However, I love the fact that he's interested in creative writing. I'm more likely to give him gifts which support this direction than plumbing, even though, ultimately, both are o.k.

I fear that I'm rapidly approaching a point at which I won't be making any sense. (Maybe it's too late already!) I'd better shut up now while I'm ahead!

Christianne said...

i'm getting in on this conversation a little late (life's been a little NUTS of late, so i'm lagging woefully behind on keeping up with people's blogs), but this is an apropos question for me right now, too, so i'll type as i think this through and throw in my two cents . . .

i'm thinking a gift is given by God for his purposes. it's different from a skill because a skill is something that can be developed in human terms. for instance, i can go to business school and learn the skill of project management, of negotiation, of writing a contract. on the other hand, a gift? by definition, it's something handed to someone by someone else who had possession of it first.

i'm thinking, just from reading the scriptures, that God does stuff for his own purposes. he's all about reconciling all things unto himself. he's all about people loving him with their whole hearts, not just doing the religious actions that make it seem to everybody else's eyes like they love him. he's all about creating and doing everything for his own glory.

so when he gives a gift, maybe it makes sense to assume he gives the gift to be used for his purposes in bringing all of it about. with me so far? i think i'm tracking with myself here, which is a good sign. :)

as far as gift versus calling, i'm thinking the calling is a specific outworking of the specific gift. like, it gets ever more specific to the person. first, God decides which gifts he is going to grace which people with, depending on how he wants to use them specifically in the world to accomplish his grander aims. then, he gives those people with those giftings even more specific callings, whether it be to pastor a church, start a food bank, found a company, become an elderly care worker, etc. all specific manifestations of the gift God gave them for use in the world, specific to their time and place and situation and intent.

this makes sense for me right now, as God has gifted me with a heart for grace and mercy. there are a zillion ways that can be brought into the world, either in some specific incarnation or in the way i go about my daily life and interact with people i run into or have relationship with. but the specific incarnation, as opposed to the daily interactions, would be the calling part of it.

whether God gives each person a calling, i'm not sure. we hear a lot about specific people in the bible used for specific purposes, like moses or david or jonah or paul or peter or mary, but we don't hear a lot about all those other israelites who were following moses' direction or all those other people in the ephesian church or the church at colossae or corinth. on the other hand, it's not that those people aren't important to God. God cared about the hearts of ALL the israelites, and basically they were all far from him (except, i guess, the prophets that he called -- oops, there's that word again).

i'm starting to get to a place, like jeff, in which i'm tailspinning and starting to confuse myself. so i think i'll stop with this one last thought, and that is, i'm not sure yet if there's a difference between a spiritual gift and a regular gift -- like the difference between the gift of mercy or preaching versus a gifting for words and writing. probably both are given by God. does that mean they're both intended to be used for "calling"? again, does everyone get a calling? and there, i think, is still where your fundamental, underlying question goes unanswered, at least by me. at this point, i say i don't know yet.

Scott R. Davis said...

Heather's idea is on target for your post, Jenn. WE can't stop fighting and just enjoy this life since in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned and as a result, we are now cursed to work at jobs that we may not fully like. Yet, it pays the bills, blesses customers and employers and employees and the blogging community as well. Even Jacob struggled climbing the ladder with God. Not a corporate one though. May you be blessed in your pursuits of your calling and in your life as well.

Jenn said...

I love that people are writing entire blog-posts on my blog-post! Sorry I haven't responded to you, Jeff, Christianne, or Scott. I'm still thinking . . .

Jenn said...

So . . . not sure how much I really have to say after all. But thanks, everybody, for your thoughts. I think I'm inclined to doubt the hyper-specific will of God anymore--I think He goes more for character than occupation, but I guess I still often sense that there are things he has gifted us for and, by so doing, has called us to employ in some way or other.

I find it really difficult to believe, also, that to whatever level God does have a specific call on our lives, He doesn't call *everyone.* (Though I think we have a certain amount of power to say no.) It's true that He initially set apart Abraham's family, and then Jacob's family, as His chosen people through whom to bless the earth. But I feel like, through the intended breaking down of the Jewish/Gentile barrier (not that that has happened too well throughout history), Jesus opened the way so that everyone could be called, not just certain "special people."

This, of course, leads to questions of predestination, of which I am heartily tired at the moment, so I will leave it here.

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