this is the personal website of Susannah Clark
A few thoughts on vocation:
We are called into being by the creative word which is the mind of God and the creative agency of God.
This is vocation.
The calling of us into being, and becoming, by God. Some people see specific roles as vocations, and of course, they can be. They can be roles and contexts in which we find ourselves, find our frontiers, find our vulnerabilities and our strengths, and grow and serve - and by the grace of God, become by doing.
In a deeper sense though, vocation is God invoking who we are already known by God to be, in all eternity. It is not just a one-off or specific calling. All through our lives, God who knows us is calling us, again and again into being: into being and becoming.
Much of this growing and becoming - this vocation - involves opening our hearts and minds to the love and grace of God. In this sense, vocation is relational. It is a journey shared. It involves a life's journey in prayer and quiet and waiting - waiting on God. And trusting God in all the unknowns.
Vocation, and our opening up to love, is the opening up of our hearts to God. And then allowing that love to infiltrate our lives, our work, our relationships.
Each one of us has a soul, and the truth is, too often we find ourselves almost 'outside' the person we really are - busying ourselves with all life's negotiations and presentations and appearances and defences. Yet at the very heart of who we are, at the very centre of our souls... there sits God, waiting to have encounter with us, waiting to share love, to share peace and grace.
So in a sense, a big part of vocation is the calling us back to ourselves - our true selves where we are known and met by God. Vocation is the calling into more and more of the wholeness of who we are, and who God is.
And who we are, in our completeness, is not an isolated individual. Who we are is relational. It is a shared journey. God in us, and we in God. Because God, the Holy Trinity, is by very nature relational, eternally, and sharing consciousness, awareness, love is the very nature of God with God with God, and God with us.
We are invoked, we are called, into a state of being and existence which is co-existent with God. It is the very nature of eternal existence, where God is everywhere. That is not to suggest identity is erased, or individuality crushed. On the contrary, in relationship with God, each person's full life and identity is accentuated, and treasured, and known.
Vocation in the Christian tradition involves death to self. It is the Way - the way of baptism, burial, resurrection - the way of the Cross and the way Jesus lived and gave and emptied out himself.
If we try to hold on to our independence and sufficiency, we run the risk of losing ourselves. Vocation is a call to givenness, to 'devotion' in the Old Testament sacrificial sense. But the path that leads through death-to-self, turns out to be the way of givenness and opening to God, and leads to resurrection and fullness of life in the eternal reality.
The eternal reality, experienced and expressed in this world, is the exercise and opening up of love. Love is the great commandment. Love is the key. And vocation is calling us, day by day, into eternal reality.
God is calling us into being. God is calling us and loves us. Our hurts, our failures, our selfishness may make us instinctively close doors to this love. But God's very nature is so full of grace, of loving kindness, and merciful healing. And engaging in relationship with a God like this, we may find courage, and may dare to love.
Opening up to the love of God who shares even consciousness and awareness, and self-exposing love... we may open up as well to other people, in the beauty and flow of love and gentle grace and givenness... and the sharing of God with us, may become the sharing of us with others. Because of our being and God's being converging.
And so we may be shaped - through the practicalities of life, the diverse people we meet or serve, through experience of a love beyond our own, that spills over in our actions, in our feelings, in our giving.
I think vocation involves all this.
It is dying to self, but it is also finding self.
This principle of spiritual baptism is pre-figured in recurring archetypes in the scriptures: Noah, buried in the coffin-like Ark, and swallowed up in the landless seas and the great ocean, to be restored to a new beginning by the God who held him and kept him safe. Joseph, cast down in a pit, and left for dead, yet raised, step by step, by God to new life. Moses, abandoned in a basket on the waters, set adrift, and yet rescued and raised up by God in a great vocation. The great baptismal archetype of the Red Sea, and the Israelites descending into the jaws of the waters, and rising up on the other side to a new beginning. Daniel, entombed in the lions' den, and lost to the world, then raised up again. And the men in the fiery furnace, doomed beyond hope, yet encountering a fourth person in there, and rescued unharmed. And the 'sign' that Jesus specifically isolated as pre-figuring his own: the sign of Jonah, who ws swallowed, and buried, and entombed in the deeps of the waters - a dramatic death-to-self or everything he'd clung to in the life up there - and then his deliverance and restoration to the land of the living.
All these archetypes, many of them arguably myths and stories, are powerful for the message they convey through archetype: that message of the Way of death to self, of death on a cross, of givenness to a point of no turning back... and the entombment... and the raising up in eternal nature and wholeness.
'I have a baptism to undergo' said Jesus, and the authors of the narrative explain that this referred to his death on the Cross. 'And you, too, must be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with.'
Our vocation is being called into the 'being' of life with God... into the sharing... into the eternal household and community of God the Holy Trinity.
And through our being and becoming, called and recalled into being, to open our lives to the life of God and the givenness of God, and the grace and flow and impulse of God's nature.
This is a practical process. It is not just easy sentiment. And through the practicalities and tangible physical challenges we face, and a multiplicity of people, we are called - to share, to love, to become.
To become who God knows we are going to become. Each one of us unique, each one of us known to God from the beginning, each one of us invited and invoked to meet God in our innermost selves, and be known, and loved, and to know ourselves - and indeed, to grow, in whatever small way, in our knowing and understanding of God. The God with whom we come to share our lives and being.
"God is not far off... in God we live, and move, and have our being."
In the contemplative experience, when God eventually - in God's own good time - comes to us in perfection... it is like a sudden revealing, a sudden awareness of this vast plain or sea of God's consciousness and being and awareness. And the astonishing thing is: it is not then 'God over there' and 'me over here'. It is God and us enjoined and sharing... sharing love, sharing consciousness, sharing awareness together.
And this is the great sharing that God calls us to. Not just 'out there' but in the innermost cloistered garden of our soul. An awareness and consciousness shared together. And a love. And a quiet. And a knowing.
And if God shares so much - even God's own awareness... how can we also not share? So our very existence is shown to be relational. And love flows and flickers across the surface of our relationships, our work, our service - in all its little day-to-day practicalities. And this too is vocation, this too is our being and becoming.
This is who God calls us to be, and we find ourselves in it, in this giving and givenness and given to, as we are drawn and called into the household of the Holy Trinity, the felicity of the eternal household, and the day-to-day dawning of God's good and strong estate.