One shoe off

November 29, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Liz @ 3:02 pm
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Here I am! Officially a woman of leisure! All that remains is to file my claim and buckle down to the task fo determining what comes next. I’ve all but decided that Chicago is my next destination … back to CTS to finish my M.Div. I’ve been a bit Jonah-like. Time to go back and face the music. I know, that makes it sound like my MDiv studies were a bad thing. To the contrary, at my most focused, I absolutely adored being at CTS and all the reading and talking and writing and soul-searching that entailed. And I’m anxious to get back to it, and get it all finished, and get on to the next thing. I know this is all kind of jumbled and incoherent and not very exciting and stuff. I have a hard time talking about seminary, because talking about seminary means talking about that whole “vocation” thing. And the word “vocation” makes me uncomfortable. Have I mentioned this before? It may not be totally clear, since I used to be in the employment business, what I mean by “vocation,” so I’ll try to clarify. I’m not just talking “job” or “career.” It is, instead, true to its Latin roots, a reference to a “call.”  The more Bible-inclined among you will understand that without further explanation, probably. Those not so inclined, it’s sort of like this — your vocation is that which you feel ‘called’ to do, that work towards which you are constantly pulled. Via Mind on Fire, here’s the Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition of “vocation”

The action on the part of God of calling a person to exercise some special function, especially of a spiritual nature, or to fill a certain position; divine influence or guidance towards a definite (esp. religious) career; the fact of being so called or directed towards a special work in life; natural tendency to, or fitness for, such work.

Why does “vocation” present such an issue? Here’s why: most everythign that happened in my life from the time I was an infant up through college was framed in terms of “call.” When I was about 3, my parents told me that God had “called” them to leave the States and move us all to South America. Stories about my grandfather revolved mostly around his various “calls” to pack up his family and transport them across the country — multiple times — to pastor churches in Illinois, in Alaska, in Colorado, in California … Throughout high school and college (both at religious schools), I was enjoined to listen to God’s call about everything … what I did with my life, where I went to school, who I dated. It seemed to me that no one could speak of any kind of decision EXCEPT in terms of “call,” whether it was God who was telling them to do something, or just their own common sense or own desire. This is why “vocation” is troubling. Am I really following a “voice,” or do I simply have no other way of talking about the direction my life’s journey takes? As a result, I’ve kind of rebelled against “vocation” talk, not wanting to cheapen it, and not wanting to attribute to the Divine decisions that were just me deciding to do something. Plus it seemed (and seems, still) that I can see through so many people’s “vocations,” and see that the reason they’re doing something isn’t because of some “vocare” but because they’re trying to make up for something, or they’re trying to flee from something (or from themselves), or they’re trying to “sanctify” a decision that they know is either purely selfish or a really, really bad decision (most — not all! — “God told me to marry her/him” decisions I’ve seen fall under this category). Because people with real-life divine calls to do something don’t make a big speech about how God told them to do this. They just do it and get on with it. They don’t care if you know why they’re doing it. They’re not answering to you, anyway. Which is SO not where I was going with this post, but I can’t help but think that’ll preach …

October 5, 2007

“That may work in Tough-girl land … but not in real life.”

Editor’s note: This post acknowledges the existence of women’s reproductive organs and makes general references to routine medical procedures. As such, it may not be suitable for “more sensitive” readers. In addition, it is extraordinarily long, particularly for a blog entry. And finally, it’s overly confessional, highly personal and barely even tangentially related politics, theological reflection, or the current topic in TEC 300. Look for THAT kind of stuff sometime this weekend.

My apologies to all … the whole working thing has been very mentally draining — YOU try dashing from exam room to exam room asking middle-aged, respectable Latina mothers about their sexual habits , wrangling distressed children and trying to explain possible vaccine reactions to their mothers, and trying to come up with the Spanish words for medical terms you don’t even know in English. Do THAT a couple of days and then try to come up with a hundred-odd words on theology and politics and stuff.

Despite my excuses, I really am enjoying my work at the health department. The initial awkwardness of being the third person in the room during gynecological exams aside (if you ever find yourself in this situation, I offer you my little sister’s — who’s also spent some time interpreting — invaluable advice: “Stand by the head and you’ll be fine.”, it’s very cool to be a patient advocate, to help ensure that women (and children) are receiving compassionate and adequate care.

I’m enjoying it so much that it’s got me thinking (argh! not again!) about a change of vocation. I’ve developed a profound respect for the nurse practitioners with whom I’ve been working, so an inkling of a thought about going into that field has crept into my mind. (Those of you who know me won’t be terribly surprised … I change my mind about what I want to do every six months or so.)

What’s surprising is how out of the blue this is — I have never had any desire to go into the health care field (all those Paraguayan summer afternoons whiled away over my mom’s copy of “Where There is No Doctor” notwithstanding). It’s just never appealed to me as a career choice. So it seems odd to me that, standing at the head of the table while a woman gets Papped, I should hear a voice (I’m trying very hard to avoid any off color Moses jokes. You should too) saying “Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us?” (Operation avoid Moses reference a success; incidentally, the citation is Isaiah 6:8.)

I know this is not particularly “Public” theology, and I had intended to write about some stuff I saw on the news tonight, but I seem to have rambled on and on about this. I may as well try to make it at least slightly theological.

Thing is, I’ve never known exactly how to think theologically about vocation. That may seem odd, because the topic of vocation seems like it would be a theological no-brainer. The fact is, I grew up around people who would describe every decision they made or new step they took as a response to “God’s call.” I went to college at a school where some people seemed convinced that God was dictating everything they did, from “God told me to wear this shirt today for a reason, so that lady at McDonald’s would compliment me on it and I could tell her about our mission trip to Cabo and witness to her about Jesus.” to “God told me that you’re going to be my wife. Will you go out with me?” When I first began to sense a call, I wondered if I just lacked any other language to talk about trying to decide what to do with my life. Plus, it was never a very specific call. More of a “You should be doing something DIFFERENT” sense, and a vague pull toward seminary … and then I went to a visitor day at CTS and that felt good, so I decided to go with it. In general though, I’ve tended to live my life in a sort of haphazard way: following my bliss or reacting to situations that arose. The first took me to Chicago, the second brought me back to Oklahoma. Despite the fact that I have a sort of general direction in which I’m moving, I often feel like I don’t live my life with a great deal of intentionality. Is intentionality necessary to vocation? I’ve finally gotten comfortable with the idea of being “called,” but am I ever going find out what I’m called TO? Is it this?

The whole tone of this entry is getting far too confessional for my own comfort level, so I’ll leave this discussion here, for the moment. Tomorrow, look for the theology of Marion Jones and some thoughts on personal and social holiness (see, class, I’m getting there eventually).

Oh, by the way, the title comes from something the commentator (if that’s what she is. I’m really unsure of several people’s role on the show) on Judge Joe Brown said. It really has no relation at all to the post, or to anything. But I thought it would make a brilliant blog posting title, and figured I’d better use it before it got lost up there.

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