on“To what are you called?” This is something my mother would often ask me and others growing up. She’d look you straight in the eye with a deadpan stare, the eyebrows artfully painted on her face raised high, and ask, “Is God calling you? And if so, to what are you being called?”
I used to think I knew the answer. Almost instinctively and perhaps a bit defensively I would retort, “Of course!” It didn’t seem to occur to me, then, to take the time and ponder that a bit. What am I being called to do? And by whom? Now in the stage of life where most are settling in and settling down to mortgages, marriages, families and careers, I am coming back to that question posed by my mother.
Early on I did the must-dos. The items I just mentioned that are so inscribed into the social consciousness of those of us born in the West, and even more so for those of us born in well meaning African and Caribbean homes. Accomplishing in particularly visible ways is the necessary repayment to our families, and our statement to the world, that we’ve made good on the efforts of those who came before us. It’s the “good Black” tax that one must pay, especially if you want to distinguish yourself from the negative portrayals that often take center stage, and make front page, about our communities.
Before I hit 25 I had “arrived” in some ways to the things that are supposed to make things, well, better. I had ticked off all of the must-do goals I had penned down in my teenage, angst-filled journal; mortgage, marriage, career, 2 trips a year, the “right” friends, and schooling. These accomplishments, I had assumed at 16, would free me from that existential black hole and the listlessness that followed me during my youth . . . and, in truth, also popped its head up occasionally in my 20s.
At 30 I’m clear that there was a flaw to my calculation; an error that the clicking clock of time seems to define more clearly, allowing me to adjust, or rather readjust, accordingly. It is my belief that each one of us is called to something important in the world. While many of us may know this intuitively, we can often get caught up on the idea of “important” and what that exactly means. We go big — real big — and assume that our call is loud, and large, and that “important” means that too.
Truthfully, that call is often quite the opposite. I happen to believe that our call is a Divine one, and if that’s the case we must be clear on the characteristics of That Which Is Greater than Ourself. G-d if you choose to call It that, is purposeful, powerful, impact-full but gentle. Spirit is gentle and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that It’s call is gentle too. The voice of Spirit is the still, small one, that quiet knowingness that prompts us to go this way and not the other, choose this partner, turn down that job, say no when the world is screaming “yes!” and say yes when the world is crying “no!”
To what are you called? I can gather that the Great Mother-Father G-d hasn’t called any of us to a big house in the suburbs, loads more money than we can manage and use in our lifetime or any other thing related to keeping up with the Joneses. G-d is purposeful, powerful and impact-full and is calling us to do, and rather be, those things too. Purposeful, powerful and impactful - neither of these qualities have anything to do with big or loud, just clear. And whether the call is to build community, teach, write, or heal to name a few, these things can be done from just about anywhere.
I overheard someone say the other day that she was embarrassed for a fellow colleague of hers who had been working at the same job tending to a kindergarten class for the past 14 years: “They obviously don’t have any self-respect!” she proclaimed. To her it was an obvious sign of some personal failure that her colleague had been content with her work, and she failed to see that perhaps her coworker was not content with, but instead was content in, her work. This young woman who like many of us had equated achievement to the outside world’s definition of success failed to see that her coworkers’ job tending to the needs of little children, for pay that met her needs, was all she needed because she was in alignment with what Spirit had called for her to do.
Answering a call is not answering to the expectations of the world. Many times answering your call will look like insanity by external standards. At 29, just newly divorced, when I quit my job, sold my home and moved to a no longer fancy postal code - so that I could heal, get more intentional in my work with myself spiritually, and begin the foundation work in what has been my ministry - many people found my decision to be an odd one. I’ll be honest that at times, I did too! But more often that not, I have seen over this last year of personal and professional exploration that I am much more clear than I had ever been before.
In the absence of the rat race I had enveloped myself in; I can hear the voice of Holy Spirit much better. G-d had been speaking to me for years as It does us all, showing up for me as that emptiness in the midst of my busy-ness. It showed up as that whispering voice that said, “This isn’t it” when others were patting me on the back for some achievement or another. We all have a voice, whether we can hear it or not in the noise of our busy lives. It’s patient, subtle but persistent. When you take a moment and give it your attention, the patient, subtle knock becomes more like a drum procession.
I’ve come to hear that drum beat and dance to it, as off as it may sometimes seem. The dance hasn’t always been a comfortable one pushing me outside of zones that I’ve become accustomed, but I am trusting it to guide me into exactly where I am supposed to be at any given moment. I offer this to you too. To what is it that you are called? And by whom? If it’s the will of the world you’ll be able to feel it in the frenetic pace and insatiable ‘not enough-ness’ that accompanies it. The voice of the world, of ego, is loud and always fearful. But if it’s truly Spirit – it’ll be that gentle, that quiet, that knowing voice that says, “I called you to greater things than this, and this beloved, isn’t it.” To what are you being called? And by whom? And which call will you answer to? Choose wisely.