Ben has posted a quotation from William Stringfellow that is just too good not to reproduce here. This reminds me of how much I love Stringfellow’s work and life story, and hopefully will impel me to take up reading him more regularly again.
“I had elected then [in my early student years] to pursue no career. To put it theologically, I died to the idea of career and to the whole typical array of mundane calculations, grandiose goals and appropriate schemes to reach them…. I do not say this haughtily; this was an aspect of my conversion to the gospel….
“[Later] my renunciation of ambition in favor of vocation became resolute; I suppose some would think, eccentric. When I began law studies, I consider that I had few, if any, romantic illusions about becoming a lawyer, and I most certainly did not indulge any fantasies that God had called me, by some specific instruction, to be an attorney or, for that matter, to be a member of any profession or any occupation. I had come to understand the meaning of vocation more simply and quite differently.
“I believed then, as I do now, that I am called in the Word of God … to the vocation of being human, nothing more and nothing less…. Within the scope of the calling to be merely but truly human, any work, including that of any profession, can be rendered a sacrament of that vocation. On the other hand, no profession, discipline or employment, as such, is a vocation.”
—William Stringfellow, A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow (Eerdmans, 1994), pp. 30-31.
This strikes a particular chord with me in regard to the issue of vocation as it bears on my own life. I remember clearly (because it was not too long ago!) the agony of learning to die to certain aspirations of career, status, and prestige. Not that I mean to commend my own path as exemplary–everything about my life-form I owe to the gifts I have been given through my church. But, I am certain that these sorts of ruminations on vocation are exactly what our culture, a culture of almost unquestioned prioritzing of carerr over all other ties, needs.