November 17, 2016
I've been writing here for the past month and a half about vocation, marriage, and work. I have one more post to publish in that series, which is nearly ready.
The writing for that series was done by early October, but it's interesting (and not surprising) that even with the writing wrapped up, those ideas keep popping up in my life and have been dominant threads in my experiences and awareness this fall.
I have three specific encounters with "vocational" ideas that I want to tell you about.
1. I watched Lisa Grace Byrne's three part video teaching called Clarity & Prosperity.
As always with Lisa's teaching, I love the way she frames ideas and gives me tools to help understand myself.
Something that has really stuck with me was Lisa's teaching in video 2 about operating at the intersection of High Capacity & High Care, the idea being that our sweet spot for work (if you read my glossary of terms you'll know I do not mean income-earning job when I say work), and life in general, is the where these two overlap.
I have more ideas I want to revisit from that teaching series. Specifically, I want to define my own Triple Win (from video 1) since my sweet spot of high capacity and high care, in this life season, does not land me in an income-generating zone. It doesn't need to (I'll get into that more in my last vocation, marriage, and work post) but someday I would like to land in that zone.
2. I read Big Magic.
People have raved a lot about this book, with good reason. But I was scared. Not of the word Magic, or the suggested woo-woo within.
I was scared of the word Big. In 2015 I parted ways with "Big" Vision, "Big" Dreams, "Big" Adventure. I didn't want anything to do with what I perceived as the Big Unknown.
I can only make steps into and through the Big Unknown when I feel safe and secure. 2015 was the year for shoring up my security in physical ways. 2016 has been about getting to the root of security and safety, my relationship with God. And until I feel safe in that place I'm not intentionally exploring the unknown. I still end up in the unknown, on a regular basis. But walking into that place, on purpose, is a different matter.
I was concerned Big Magic would be a book that would take me places I wasn't prepared to go.
Like most of my fears, this one was unfounded. I read the book and really enjoyed it. You knew I would (lots of people have recommended it to me).
I borrowed it from the library and read through most of it in a restful self-care day spent in bed. After reading the book I then listened to some podcasts with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic: the On Being interview with Krista Tippett and several RobCast podcasts. (The RobCast has a few interview/chats with Elizabeth Gilbert). Gilbert has her own podcasts, which I haven't listened to yet.
There is so much percolating through my mind from reading Big Magic and listening to those podcasts but a few things that really speak to me, for where I'm at, are these ideas:
3. I listened to a sermon.
During one of the sermon's last month at church, we were challenged to answer the question "what are you called/led to?" A question not entirely unfamiliar in a church-setting. And then Dwight, the pastor, walked us through his own 7 or so callings. What he shared was a mix of vocation and relationship roles, a guide that helps him make decisions about his time and resources. Right there in church (I always make notes in sermons) I sketched out my own list and revisited it later that week during my Personal Retreat Day, to refine and define those ideas.
Here's what I wrote:
In this life season, I am called to be:
And now I'm going to get to the heart of it. The reason for laying that all out.
Sometimes we think, I think, that with insight and clarity, with watching, listening, reading, and writing I will get closer to that place of ease and comfort I'm always looking for, the arrival.
I'm months deep into a writing series about vocation and calling (and years of thinking about this topic). I'm steeped up to my eyeballs in sermons, good books, podcasts, and video teaching. I feel like my clarity and insight about my work has definitely increased. Yay for this.
But this clarity does not lead to ease, it does not pave a steady path. I have a lot of clarity at this moment about who I am, what I'm about, the work I'm called to do right now, etc.... But what this self-knowledge does is it simply puts me in more situations of growth, struggle, and challenge. And shows me new things I have to learn, adapt to, and grow through.
It's almost like the universe conspires to challenge you to "up your game" just as you find your footing on that ledge of understanding you've just reached.
Clarity is not a magic wand that adds pixie dust to your life, making it sparkly and shiny and oh so happy. Clarity takes you further along the path of service and self-awareness, to more clarity, which takes you further on the path of service and self-awareness.
I took on a new responsibility at the end of September/early October. It's a volunteer job in the sweet spot of my high capacity and high care zone. This job has been incredibly stretching for me. And I did not see that coming. I had such clarity that taking on this responsibility was the right move, a solid step forward. I feel called to do this thing, but I also feel inadequate a lot of the time. That's challenging.
I know what I'm supposed to be doing right now in this life season. And I feel I'm doing it.
That's a great feeling. But then again, not so much, because I don't feel like I'm doing an on-top-of-the-world job of it.
I've done the soul-searching work of considering who I am and what I feel called to do. Life asks that I hold multiple responsibilities and roles. But I feel I'm not able to do any one of them to the level of.... oh bother, let's just be honest here, to the level of perfection that I want to achieve.
I know I've struggled with perfection in the past. I like to think I've left that millstone behind, but I do see it still hanging around from time to time. Resurfacing in new situations. And when I experience anxiety I know perfection must be lurking below the surface, still.
In the past month, in spite of all my clarity and understanding, I've been experiencing acute anxiety in the situations where I feel I'm really not good enough for this job. I feel called to this task, this relationship, this responsibility, but I also feel that what I'm able to offer will not be enough. That's a sign of perfectionism still trying to wreak havoc in my life.
One of my most dominant reactions to this anxiety is to seek shelter, seek cover, to crawl back into bed and pull the covers up over my head. Sometimes I do that. In my feelings of inadequacy and weakness I want to protect myself from failure, protect myself from the vulnerability. "God, pick somebody else for this job."
This has been painful for me. And I've shed a lot of tears and felt pretty angsty about all this until coming to a new awareness of the situation, one that is probably already obvious to you in reading this.
Although this is a difficult physical and emotional place, it's exactly where I need to to be spiritually.
I'm bringing my God-given gifts to the table. I've evaluated my commitments and callings, my roles and responsibilities. I've been clear in my Yeses and my No's. But I'm still not capable enough in my own strength to make everything function at the highest level it can, because.... surprise, surprise, that's not my job.
Here is what I've heard the Spirit say, strong and clear, in this situation: The work that's being done through you, in you, is not because you are particularly "great" or strong. Yes, you have high capacity and high care, but that sweet spot is not the comfort zone you seek, my love. That convergence of capacity and care is actually a sizzle, a spark, that will move you into the next place of growth, which is to say, discomfort. And in that place of discomfort you will feel weak. You're supposed to, because it's not your greatness, your clarity, your intentions, your glory that's at stake here, it's mine.
In other words, "honey, this show does not depend on you".
To which I say, Thank God! Literally. (And also, my pride gets a teensy bit wounded, but the freedom from perfection more than makes up for that little bruise.)
This is how head knowledge becomes heart knowledge. It's a painful process, and I don't want to go there because it is a very vulnerable place. To show up and say, with open hands and open heart, this is what I've got, and to know it's not enough to meet the need, in your own strength, but to trust anyway.
Clarity doesn't bring the comfort I seek, trusting does. Nothing, outside of Trust, brings the comfort I seek.
I hate this lesson. I fight it all the time. My writing circles back and back and back to this idea of trust, because it is the dark place in my heart where the lies are deep-rooted. It is the place I need most to be set free with the truth.
What do I "do" with this? Because for me, the spiritual is also intensely practical. I need to "do" something with this awareness. So here's what I'm doing:
I'm seeking help, which means reaching out to people because we are not alone, we're supposed to share all of life - the good and bad - in community. I'm practicing the radical discipline of living like I'm loved. I'm holding firm to some boundaries and moving past others. I'm being self-disciplined, so in the time I have for each of my jobs, which feels tight most days, I'm bringing the best I can to the task at hand.
And I'm resting.
Resting is the ultimate act of trust because after you've given what you can and you feel it's not enough to meet the need, to fix the problem, to resolve the situation, and you choose to rest anyway, you are recognizing that you are not God, you do not hold the world in your hands, nor does it rest on your shoulders.
I am to rest in peace, not in an anxiety-driven hidey-hole. Physically resting is an outward sign of the posture of our hearts in which we trust God to take what we've given, the few loaves and fishes, and make it greater than it is. This is God's modus operandi. This is how the Divine operates.
I love clarity of roles and responsibilities, clarity of purpose. I love well-ordered ideas and plans. But clarity is not the answer in my life. It's just the tool that gets me further along the path, up to the next ledge, to another foot-hold of discomfort and vulnerability where I'm able to once again learn the real lesson, which is trust.
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