Since yesterday’s question was “Who are you?”, fans of Babylon 5 probably know that the next question is that of the Vorlons’ adversaries, the Shadows: “What do you want?”
Well, what do I want? That’s always been a difficult question for me. The dominant question was more often “What am I supposed to do?” In some ways that’s tied up with the previous question, “Who are you?” I’m the older child; so I’m supposed to be the responsible one. I’m the star student, one of the smartest kids in the school; so I’m supposed to get straight As and push myself harder. I’m supposed to go on and do great things in academia.
So much of my identity was wrapped up in that last part that it was a dominant part of my identity. To then lose it meant losing that identity. There were, of course, other parts of it, but the keystone had been lost. However, I still got caught up in wondering what I was supposed to do, what my call was. Perhaps I got that question wrong.
Maybe “call” has less to do with what I’m supposed to do because that’s who I am and more to do with what is wanted. Less about duty, more about desire. But whose desire? Since we call it, well, a “calling” or “vocation,” someone has to be the one calling. The easy answer is God. I believe that is correct to an extent. God does have desire, and one of those desires is for our flourishing. The greatest flourishing occurs when the song of His creation is in harmony with the song of our being, when our desires mesh with His.
However, it can be so hard to hear that song. To be honest, I often feel like I can’t hear either one. If I don’t recognize my own, how can I recognize God’s? Just what is it that I want? There’s the larger, overarching desire . . . whatever that might be. However, there are also other, smaller desires. Well, “wants” might be a better word. I want a comfortable life. Not extravagant, just more comfortable than what I have now. I want to have a job that I can look forward to going to each morning. Well, at the very least, I want a paying job that I can be reasonably satisfied with. (I suppose one’s vocation might not necessarily translate into a paying job but can be filled in other ways.) I also really want to be able to travel more, to see more of the world or even just this country. Is it wrong to want all that? Does the larger desire have to conflict with those? On the other hand, how much are those desires based in my own soul, and how much are they based in comparing myself to others?
In a much used (and hopefully not cliched) quote, Frederick Buechner writes, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Where do I find my deep gladness? I still don’t know. Perhaps I don’t trust myself enough recognize and accept it. But then there’s the aspect of the world’s greatest need. Maybe that’s a way to find my deep gladness. The danger there, especially for me, is to then get lost in that need. “Aha, there’s a need. I must attend to it.” (See above regarding the “supposed to” question.)
So we’ve got the three parts: God’s desire, my desire, the world’s desire. How do those mesh without any one of them being lost in the others? How do the three songs harmonize while maintaining each individual voice? Wow, I guess I’ve come a long way from how this post started. Maybe I need to find some way to come out of the shadows I find myself in.
[To be continued . . . ]