I feel like I've been writing this post over the past five days, really.
Because to talk about calling is to talk about vocation.
I've been writing about the moments we first get visions, little glimpses, micro-tastes of calling. It's when you wake up to your desire and to your skill and to the fire God lit in your heart like the Eternal Flame.
And you get this concentrated vision, as if your whole life were flashing before your very eyes, and it is, because you are dying -- dying to the life you used to know.
Everything is different now. The scales have fallen from your eyes, and you have seen another world: the world of you living out what God has put in you to do. The good thing(s) He's given you to do.
It's a way to use your voice.
You and I both know how partial I am to the voice hashtag singers.
I think about what we call a singer's Fach. It's a German word for category. Basically, it's how we categorize voice type so that we can make informed decisions on what repertoire is best for our voices, and so the opera house can make informed decisions on how to cast us. No one wants to hear me sing the Habanera, for example -- or if they do, it's mostly for laughs.
And we've got a lot of names for voice types, and we all identify with at least one. I, for example, am a lyric coloratura soprano: I sing really, really high really, really fast. BUT. Though there are lots of women who fall into that category, no one has the same voice as me.
No one has the same blend of chiaroscuro (light-dark), timbre, weight, and general tone as I do.
I was listening to an audiobook this morning -- Anne Bogel's new book on personality, entitled Reading People, which so far I'm in love with. In the Introduction, she describes the unique cocktail blend of personality, character, skills and passions -- all our different facets that combine to make us us. We might have one of these qualities or traits in common with others in the world -- there are lots of women who can sing ear-shattering high notes, for example. But no one, and I mean no one, has the same blend of all these things as you.
It's baffling to me that God can do that. But if I could understand Him and His myriad ways, that might make me God, and I am content to be human.
To be Sara.
Over the past couple of days, there's been this idea percolating in my brain, and today in my Morning Pages, I finally wrote it down. My self-concept, the way I see myself, as if I were looking at myself, is as what I can only describe as a perfect girl. Someone who is always chipper, always perky, always knows exactly what to say, always does exactly the right thing. Someone who is universally admired, universally liked; someone who is emulated by everyone she meets. I have this vision of myself -- but she does not exist.
I realized that this, this very self-concept, is why I become so frustrated when I don't say the right thing. When my day doesn't go perfectly. Why I get down on myself for almost everything. My self-concept isn't of a human person. She's a figment of my imagination.
When I start trying to see who I really am, when I start praying that I will see myself the way God sees me -- that's when I get something far more interesting than The Perfect Girl (which is also the title of a book that's been on my TBR list forEVer).
I see a unique blend of fear and pockmarks. Of all my imperfections. All the things I love with all my heart. At my high school, each class of graduating seniors picked character traits for all their classmates, traits that they embodied so well that it seemed to dominate. When I graduated in 2012, my character trait was passion, and to this day, that's something people associate with me, which makes me proud (and probably also annoying, but I don't particularly care about that).
When I pray to see myself the way God sees me, I see all my profound imperfections and all the things about me that I am proud of. I see my fear and anger, my shame and my judgmental heart. I see my passion and fire, my joy and empathy, my hunger for knowledge, my love of books, the music in my soul.
I see the pockmarks and the stars.
And let me tell you, it's the pockmarks that are more poetic to me than the sunshine right now.
It's this uncharacteristic-characteristic combination of scars and imperfections and skills and joys and the best parts of me that create the woman who writes to you now.
It's out of this -- personality, character, skill, passion, desire -- whence comes the Voice. My voice. And it's the use of that voice, that inner song made external, in the day-to-day, that makes vocation.
Vocation, used so often to refer to career, is not that. Your career, your day job, is what it is. Your vocation is the working-out of the music God put in your heart, its outflowing, its pouring-out through your skin.
It's you tipping your Self out like a pitcher of clear water every day, and the world getting a deep drink of what you have to offer.
It's joining your Voice to the Song that we all can hear. And we each get a line to sing. Parts of it might be similar to others' lines -- but no one has yours.
When we find what calling is, when we see the way our voice wants to spill out of us, the way God has graven harmony onto the staff of our DNA --
You see, calling is the vision we see of the outpouring of Voice, and vocation is how it gets worked out in the regular and the ordinary.
Me practicing my vocation is being sure that I sing and write, that I perform and share. It's also being a friend and a sister, listening and waiting, being faithful in the things God has given me to do, whether it's making music or watching across the table as my friend pours out her heart. It's both motion and sitting still. It's both inhale and exhale, in song and writing and sitting in church and sitting outside and sweeping my kitchen floor.
How has God called me to be in the world? He casts vision. He takes my hands and puts them to the plow -- only in my case it's not a plow, it's a keyboard. Or around my intercostal muscles as I practice -- you get the picture.
How has God called me to be in the world?
The working out of it -- which, by the way, can only be accomplished with the coming-alongside of the Holy Spirit, with the withness of Immanuel -- the pouring out of calling is vocation. And it pops up every day -- or it does if we are paying attention.
I find that on the days I don't look at calling are the hardest ones. The days I refuse to live out the way I've been summoned into the adventure of my life are the worst days. Every time I open my mouth and my throat and let the sound pour out, it is relief to my body, like a massage, like sleep. Every time I finish one of these posts, the tension in my sternum relaxes and I have more vision. Every time I choose to sit and listen to a friend without worrying about my to-do list, I feel more myself than ever before.
(By the way, a to-do list is not vocation. A to-do list can help you in its living-out, but I find that more often than not, the list is the tyrant.
That was a sidebar, but it's true.)
All this is to say one thing: we all have calling. We all have vocation, the way that calling sees the light of day.
And that's what I want to leave you with today -- that and an invitation to look in at who you are, what you've been called to do; then look up at the face of Jesus; and finally, to look around at the horizon and ask: What can I do to pour out my voice, to sing my song?
That, friends, is vocation. That's la tua voce.
Everyone's got one.
How to conclude this? I have no idea. I never do.
Maybe the best way is to leave it open-ended, because there isn't a right way about vocation either -- only the way God has made for you.
May we see our next right steps along the Road for today with a little less mist than normal. May we sing the next note of our song with confidence. May our voice not fail, though it may falter. Let's be brave. Let's have hope.
Let's hear the music and sing the song.