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When I Grow Up

August 17, 2010

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Indiana Jones.

I didn’t want to be an archaeologist or a professor, per se. Nor did I want to be an actor who played Indiana Jones or Harrison Ford. I wanted to be Indiana Jones.

As I got older, I tempered my dream a little bit. I exhausted many of my elective hours in college by taking courses in archaeology and anthropology, just for fun. By the end of my time in school, I had earned the respect of the primary archaeology professor at TCU, who invited me to join his team exploring Mayan ruins in Central America.

It turned out, however, that the expedition fell in the same time frame as the wedding date that Michelle and I had chosen. I could lie and say the decision was tough but, well, I really wanted to marry that girl. I knew that I’d be “missing out” on a once in a lifetime adventure by passing on the expedition. But archaeology was, for me, a passing interest and a life of love spent with Michelle was something I had no interest in delaying.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this idea of marriage as a “vocation”. I realize that when I call marriage a vocation, I sound incredibly Catholic. It seems like such a sterile and holy way to talk about marriage, doesn’t it?

If you ask the average person about their vocation, they’re probably going to 1) look at you like you’re weird and 2) start talking about their job. This is indicative, after all, of what most people think we mean when we talk about vocations. It’s why we use terms like “vocational school” to talk about places where people go to learn a specific trade or skill.

In the Church, we talk about vocations differently; most commonly associating the word with those who are have entered the priesthood or religious life.

The word vocation itself comes from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.” So, a vocation then, is something to which we are called. Thus, when we talk about vocations, we’re talking about more than just a path we’ve chosen. We’re talking about a purpose for which we were created.

Even as I write these words I realize that this idea is both wonderful and terrifying at the same instant. Wonderful, because it means that we are significant, that we play a bigger role than we’ve probably ever imagined and it is realized in a specific purpose. We all want a purpose don’t we?

At the same time, to say that we have a purpose, a specific calling by God, is also terrifying because IT MEANS WE ARE SIGNIFICANT, THAT WE PLAY A BIGGER ROLE THAN WE’VE PROBABLY EVER IMAGINED. This awareness makes us want to both embrace it and run away simultaneously.

You find, in the Hebrew Scriptures, moments when the biblical writers came to grips with the totality of this reality. My favorite is in Psalm 139, when the Psalmist writes:

“You [God] formed my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…my very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you. Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all were written down; my days were shaped before one came to be.”

What stands out to me about the writer’s attitude is that he is not chafing under the will of God, or the idea that God has a specific purpose and direction for him, as if that somehow takes away his liberty as a person. Rather, he concludes, crying out:

“How precious to me are your designs, O God.”

We’ve been called to embrace this same attitude but it’s difficult, isn’t it? It means surrender when we’ve all been taught, culturally, to make our own way. It means quieting our minds, mouths and surroundings long enough to hear the still small voice of God. It means saying to God, with sincerity, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

At the heart of every vocation is a central call:

“Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Each of us is called to love. John reminds us in his first letter:

“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

I like, too, what St. Gregory the Great said:

“The proof of love exists in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.”

How then, we must ask ourselves, are we going to act? How are we going to make this love of God complete?

Asking these questions forces us to look inward; to hear that divine spark of the Holy Spirit crying out in response. The answer, however, is useless unless we’re willing to die to ourselves; to subordinate our wants, needs and desires to those of others and willingly say, “God, thy will be done,” rather than “God, my will be done!”

It turns out that I was never meant to be Indiana Jones (and not just because he’s a fictional character). I was meant to be a husband and a father, to model the love of Christ by loving my wife as Christ loved the church and, through my family, to build a small community of faith that will pour their love and gifts back into the Church.
This is my vocation of love.

What’s yours?

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