It makes me crazy when people talk about calling like it is some nice, pleasant thing.
Calling is a bitch. Life is a struggle between your acorn and your forest, between the expectations of the community and the voice of your heart, between tame assimilation and wild individuation.
Too many people think that calling is easy.
“Well, Oprah, we were challenged in the corporate rat race, but we loved barbecuing, and it was on one of those barbecue quests that we realized that faith is like a mustard seed, and that we had a true calling to develop a range of gourmet mustards . . . . . “
Imagine a teen coming home to tell their Mom:
“Yeah, after I finished driving the bankers out of the church, I got it. I’m gonna get a gang of guys and we are gonna go around riling up the people so much that eventually the government is gonna execute me. But it will be great — for the next 2000 years or more, people will do good and bad things in my name.”
What would Mom say?
“Oh, Jesus! Your stepfather got you into the carpenter’s union, so keep your head down and your nose clean so won’t get into trouble!”
Calling is easy. Service is easy. It’s easy to do what others want you to do and call that God’s work.
The challenge is serving your highest calling. Mother Theresa could have just been a nun taking care of the poor, but she knew that she had a higher calling. She had to become a worldwide voice for those poor, offering a story of caring that others could grasp. She may have had constant fears that God had forsaken her, but her highest calling pulled her though people calling her arrogant and full of herself, though the rigors of others turning into a cartoon figure for good or for bad.
To achieve your highest calling always, always, always means you are an agent of change in the world. No one’s highest calling is to maintain the status quo, to defend the forces that turn us into lazy comfort seekers looking to avoid challenge. No, our highest calling is always to ask people to be more, to do more, to have more open hearts and minds.
What’s the first bit of that? It’s to affirm the callings of others, even when they challenge your own comfort.
Imagine Mary saying “Go ahead, Jesus. If you know yourself to be the son of God incarnate, then you need to do what will get you sentenced to capital punishment, and your actions will make ripples which can lead to salvation.”
My calling was clear to me from a very early age. I am what is now called transgender, but has been called other things at other times, including shaman and two-sprit. The context of that calling crystalized when I heard an anthropologist say “In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”
“Remind us of our continuous common humanity.” Is there anything else that is the mark of our highest calling than to speak for connections which challenge us to come from love rather than for separations which comfort us by playing to our fears? That is the universal lesson.
I was told from a very young age that my own calling was sick, corrupt, perverted, un-godly and un-natural. I was told that the essence of good was held in the conventions of the community, and breaking down the sacred line between men and women would lead to moral degeneration, hideous corruption and eternal damnation.
Faced with that challenge, I had to figure out if my calling, my desires, my Eros were of God or of Satan. Where is evil and where is good? My path took me to one answer: those who speak for separation, for us versus them, for sin being something that others do are working for evil, and those who speak for connection, for thread that connects all, for sin being something we do when we cast others out of our own heart, those are the people working for good.
There may be no surprise that most people prefer preachy preachers, preachers who want to tell you that the problem in the world is that other people are evil, rather than teachy preachers, teachers who want to tell you that the only problems you can really fix in the world are inside of you. It’s much more comfortable to agree that others suck than to be challenged to take personal responsibility for changing ourselves and thereby changing the world.
Unfortunately, the truth is that change and healing always starts inside of us. And it involves stepping away from the expectations of the crowd, away from satisfying the desires of others, and moving to manifesting our own change in the world, moving to opening our hearts to challenge rather than just parroting answers which keep the walls between people up and fixed.
That acorn in our soul may grow a new tree, but that tree needs to clear the way for its own growth. Creation requires destruction, the clearing out of what now is there, blocking the sun and not serving the highest purpose. The Hindu Trinity is Vishnu, the god of birth, Bhrama, the God of life, and Shiva, the god of death. They make up the cycle of life.
If this is the cycle of life, then it just makes sense that some of us are called to be the daughters of Shiva. We are here to clear away space for the new. This is the outcome of our love, the special calling that helps us make change by revealing connections too easily obscured by the barriers we build in our hearts and minds.
It was clear to me from a very early age that my special skill was knowing how to ask just the right question, a question that would clear away the foggy thinking. It was clear to others that my special skill was knowing how to ask just the wrong question, question that challenged assumptions and messed up everything.
My gift is cutting away rationalizations that obscure connections, my calling to cross gender is an ancient one that anthologists have found in illuminating connections offers benefits to cultures. I am a knife that cuts away the moss growing on the walls that comfort us.
In other words, my calling is to be a challenging pain in the ass. A challenging pain in the ass, doing God’s work.
I told you. Calling is a bitch. It may be easy to find some way to serve other people, and it may be easy to name that your calling. But finding and trusting your highest calling, the one that makes the most potent change you are capable of creating, well, that’s wicked hard. Your true calling will always challenge people who need the comfort that comes from walls, who need the comfort of the status quo.
This isn’t the language most want to hear. They want to believe that a calling which confronts is one that is just wrong, because callings should always be sweet and socially acceptable. How could a calling, something that comes from God, not be as sweet as a summer day? Could God ever make a hurricane or fire out of love?
God made porcupines. And some of us are the porcupines, a bit bristly and sharp. Because we are not cuddly, does that mean we are not made by God?
To support yourself in the world, you first have to support others. To affirm your own calling, you have to affirm the calling of others. And that includes the callings that you don’t understand or think you agree with, unless you believe callings are little rational things that you can understand, and not deep spiritual things whose total wisdom is only visible to the universe. For change to happen, the battle must be joined, and that means that some people just have to speak and make visible bad beliefs & ideas so they can be challenged, examined and explored by the wider world. We can’t see the hidden evil of separationists, and what can’t be seen can’t be changed.
For those of us whose highest calling isn’t sweet and comprehensible, whose calling leaves us exposed and vulnerable to the abuse of the world, because we represent the removal of walls they like to cling onto, calling isn’t something easily taken. Calling is a bitch.
I know. And if you don’t believe me, I will show you my scars.