Saturday, April 16, 2011

Waiting for the Call

My son called yesterday to say that his mission call is in the mail. In a few short days, a white envelope will arrive to tell us where Devin will spend the next two years of his life. I will, of course, resist the powerful temptation to steam open the envelope, only to fake surprise later when we open the call together as a family. The transformative process leading up to this mission call has been powerful, and this is Devin's door to open.

In a way, I envy my son the certainty of a calling. It has been some time since I could claim any certainty about my "mission in life." When hiking, I relish the opportunity to wander aimlessly for a while, admiring the flowers and the view along the way. In life, however, aimless wandering soon leaves me restless, searching for the magnetic pull of a purpose. Amory Blaine, whose coming of age Fitzgerald chronicles in This Side of Paradise, reaches the far side of a period of disillusionment to discover a general sense of his purpose. The narrator explains:

"He found something that he wanted, had always wanted and would always want--not to be admired, as he had feared; not to be loved, as he had made himself believe; but to be necessary to people, to be indispensable."

I learned long ago that no one is indispensable. However, that desire to be necessary resonates with me. For me, the need goes a bit further. I want to be necessary to people, but also to God. I crave the feeling that the universe somehow needs me. I like the idea of the interconnectedness of life. For instance, it's pretty nifty that for one in every five breaths I take I owe a debt of gratitude to Prochlorococcus, an oceanic microbe that no one even knew existed until 1986. More powerful is the philosophy that all human experience is intertwined: the present linked to the past and the future, individual lives all dependent on the weaving that binds disparate threads into complex patterns.

Still, demanding soul that I am, I want more. I want to know specifically how I can lift my corner of the universe. Long ago, I pledged to consecrate all that I am and have to God. It's a lofty pledge, noble...and sometimes rather vague. I find myself looking for a blueprint. Even a scrap of paper with a quick note will do, like the ones I tack on the fridge for my own children. "Dear daughter, I need you to spiff up that tiny spot in the corner over there. Use that cleaning bucket of talents I gave you--the blue one this time--and make it sparkle."

For whatever reason, God seems generally loath to hand out the task and the tools at the same time. Either he gives us a task and leaves us to figure out a plan of attack, or he helps us find our set of tools and talents and then leaves us to figure out a use for them.

Today I pondered this notion of consecration. I have found that when I give in to impatience and try to design my own calling, I invariably spin my wheels. I gain greater traction when I throw my effort into finding and developing my talents, sharpening the tools. If I listen hard and exercise what little patience I possess, eventually something nudges me down the right path. Perhaps the trick to consecration, then, sometimes rests in consecrating the desire to serve. Perhaps if I do that and stop obsessively checking my cosmic mailbox every day for a call, I will in time find myself serving in meaningful ways.


  1. Congratulations to you and our son! What great news! I can't wait to hear where he will go. We have had 4 callings to Brazil in our stake this week! Did you know there are 28 missions in Brazil?

    As for consecration, I was really impressed by Pres. Eyrings comments in conference,"Because the Lord hears their cries and feels your deep compassion for them, He has from the beginning of time provided ways for His disciples to help. He has invited His children to consecrate their time, their means, and themselves to join with Him in serving others.

    His way of helping has at times been called living the law of consecration. In another period His way was called the united order. In our time it is called the Church welfare program."

    I found that very enlightening!
    BTW, the word verification to post this comment was "hearken". There's a "cosmic" email for your mailbox!

  2. "Perhaps the trick to consecration, then, sometimes rests in consecrating the desire to serve."

    I think you're onto something here. I have something delicious to ponder. Thank you!