Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Does God's Call Come from Fabric?

Last week I wrote this post about vestments.  Wendy wrote an insightful comment that ended this way:  "Is the longing to wear the gown, the stole, to consecrate the bread and "wine" part of a call or part of the same absurd wish that we still wore academic gowns to teach so I could wear mine every day? Some days I'm not sure."

Her comment has left me thinking for days.  I've been thinking about the issue of "the call" and how it might be different from how I first understood it.

When I was in college, a Lutheran liberal arts school in South Carolina, I met many students who planned to go to seminary right after they got their B.A. degrees.  They could tell you exactly when God called them to the ministry.  If there had ever been any doubt, they weren't admitting it.

And my little Lutheran school was the perfect setting for these folks.  There was no talk that people who heard God talking to them might need some mental health assessment.  No, many of us fully believed in a God who still communicated with humans. 

Of course, it might not have been something as obvious as a burning bush or angels appearing.  It might have been a strong feeling that God wants us to do something.  And in our mass ignorance, we often said that if we had doubts, then maybe God wasn't really offering "the call."

Now, of course, I would be a bit dubious about a seminary candidate who didn't have doubts.  I would be worried about that candidate's ego getting in the way of God.

Now I wonder about the way God goes about calling us.  I think about my younger self, when I was in my early 30's, not going to church, not believing I'd ever go back to church, yet feeling unable to leave the section of the Montreat store where the liturgical vestments hung.  At that point, I wasn't doing much with fabric, so it wasn't my inner fabric artist reaching out for those vestments.  Could God talk to me through the hands and art of a 3rd world artist?

I think of the music of my youth, like U2 and the Alarm, music that felt profound and theologically rooted with a vision of social justice.  I thought it was Bono singing to me, but maybe it was God.

I think of people who have known me for a long time, people who say things like, "You've talked about being a spiritual director for a long time.  When are you going to pursue that more vigorously?"  I've assumed it was the voice of a friend.  What if it's God?

I also wonder about the different ways we hear "the call" through our lifespan.  Do middle-aged people hear God's call differently from adolescents?  Do men and women hear God's voice differently?  And since I'm in education, I can't help thinking about the different ways we learn and how God might use those learning styles.  Some of us probably hear God's voice through the books we read.  Others might hear God's voice during a long run.  Still others of us have vivid dreams we can't shake.

I have friends who are much more scientific and rational, friends who would roll their eyes at any of these thoughts.  And they raise good points:  how can we be sure we're hearing God's call and not our own desires?

Or are our deep-seated desires the same desires that God would have for us?  


Wendy said...

This is the part that gets me:

"how can we be sure we're hearing God's call and not our own desires?

Or are our deep-seated desires the same desires that God would have for us?"

In the Presbyterian church we believe that God's inner call must be affirmed by the church. I'm not sure what I think of that. I am thinking of the young man who went off to seminary and as he was finishing realized he had to have the affirmation of the church, and has come to us, asking us to affirm his call. It's a difficult situation. We're not sure. I am also thinking of myself, and the churches who could not affirm a call I might have felt as a young adult, and the church that is affirming in many ways a call I sense now that I am not in a position to answer it in a traditional way. And I may have to let my own sense of inferiority go and answer the call as I can rather than try to fix what might have been.

(So excuse my using your comment space for my discerning. I'm not yet ready to say this to all the people who read my own blog. The same people who could not affirm my call. I've pondered starting a new blog just for the discerning process, but I think, eventually, I just need to be bold.)

Kristin said...

You are so welcome to use this comment space--or any space of mine--for discernment. I'm touched and honored to be part of the process. I think of you as a kindred spirit, both of us on opposite coasts, listening for God's call.