Vocation…is larger than one’s job or occupation, deeper than a profession or life’s work.
It means finding a purpose for one’s life that is part of the purpose of God.
– James W. Fowler
The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
– Albert Einstein
God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself
in so far as you are a created being made and let God be God in you.
– Meister Eckhart
In recent days, I have been gifted with the opportunity to be alive during days of which, for me, is perfect weather: cloudless, cerulean, sunlit skies, a light breeze, temperatures in the mid-70’s (Fahrenheit). These days followed others filled with unusually heavy rains, which made them even more spectacular as the lawns, trees, and undergrowth of nearby forests have become a pallet of greens moving toward the lushness of early summer.
All around us Earth is coming out of the dull starkness of winter. Eyes at first can hardly believe the profuse barrage of greenscape after so many months of looking out upon a white blanket of snow torn only by the silhouettes of dark stems and branches.
It is a time for thinking about what is coming alive in me, too, these days. As the greenery all around drinks in new energy from our Sun’s rays and prepares to turn it into the fruit of autumn’s harvest, I find myself asking anew the question: What is my contribution to it all? In this post, I want to share a few thoughts in response to that question of why we are here.
Since being introduced to the place of humans within the context of the story of the evolution of our Universe, I look upon the question of why we are here more peacefully than I once did. The answer actually is quite simple. For, if there is anything I have learned from the Universe story, it is that every part of our Universe has its place and purpose in its ongoing unfolding.
My contribution to this grand, 13.7-billion year story is to be where and who I am: to be simply me. There’s tremendous freedom in that realization. It allows me to let go of the anxiety-producing thought that I ought to be someone else: someone more sophisticated and less naïve when I was younger, someone more out-going and less shy, someone more knowledgeable and skilled at my profession.
My life is my own story of evolution, and it could not be other than it has been up until this moment, in all its frustrations and blessings. I am learning to trust that.
I have developed in recent years a mantra that I find myself often quoting to myself and others: Everything we do in life is remote preparation for what we are going to do next. I was in my early 30’s when this realization began to take shape in my own consciousness. I could at that stage of my life begin to see the pattern: some new challenge would present itself, but remarkably, I knew how to deal with it because of something or someone I had encountered previously. Today, I sometimes find myself standing in front of students in a classroom wanting to make a point on something with a story to illustrate it, and while searching the “database” of stored experiences in my mind, will land upon some incident from my own life, and quickly to myself, “My God, even that is useful now!”
When the present moment starts to feel a bit incomprehensible, I now calm myself with the realization, not only that “This too shall pass,” but also that it will some day have meaning and purpose. I just need to be open and patient.
In these summer days, I see that the morning glory seeds I planted in late spring have sprouted into vines that have begun to climb the trellis beside them. I anticipate with eager pleasure the rich, velvety blue blossoms that will emerge in mid-summer, and I take from this a new wisdom. That wisdom says to me not only, as we often heard in the ‘60’s, “Bloom where you are planted,” but also a fuller, more comprehensible notion that where I have been planted is right and good, and when I have been planted is right and good, and what I am learning now, slowly and often painstakingly, is right and good, and ultimately will lead to my own ability to blossom forth – to share what I know with others who are searching – and that it will be right and good.
Our Universe story says to me that we are of our planet Earth, cousins to the stars and all of Earth’s community of life. We all began as seeds of the incomprehensible mystery through which it all began. Yet, we can take comfort that we are indeed a part of its continued unfolding.
As the Christian writer quoted Jesus of Nazareth, “Night and day, whether the farmer sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though the farmer does not know how” (Mark 4:27).
It occurs to me that as humans, because we are conscious beings and can reflect on our experience, we are in a unique position of being both the farmer and the seed in this statement attributed to Jesus. As long as we live with the intention to stay awake and faithful to the process, we will grow, and we will bloom, making our own unique contribution to the health and well-being of the extraordinary, incomprehensible whole.
Fowler, J.W. (2000) Becoming adult, becoming Christian: Adult development and Christian faith. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass
Einstein. A. http://www.csmngt.com/einstein.htm. Accessed 7.2.11
Eckhart, M. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/meister_eckhart.html. Accessed 7.2.11