My call story, at least the one I’ve been retelling and perfecting for the last 10ish years was about how and why I became a teacher, moved from school to school, etc. I can tell that story in my sleep. I’ve drawn the line from middle school, to volleyball, to Baltimore, straight on through to Saint Martin. All these things converging, all these stones that were placed, building cairns where I thought I was simply discarding pebbles.
But sitting with our prompt this week, toting out this old well-worn story felt… well… off. Like it missed the point. Yes, I believe God’s fingerprints are all over that story and the work I’ve been called to do thus far. But I’m not sure I’ll end up back in front of a classroom when I finish my graduate work next spring. And if that’s the case, this story no longer holds water.
In her book Untamed, Glennon Doyle writes, “Ask a woman who she is, and she’ll tell you who she loves, who she serves, and what she does.” Defining ourselves in this way is “what makes the world go round,” she says, but it is also what leaves us constantly feeling “untethered and afraid.”
This chapter (“sandcastles”) was like a punch to the gut for me. If you were to ask me two years ago who I was, my students would have been the who that I loved, the who that I served, and the what that I did. And I can’t imagine a better way to describe the past year and a half of my life than untethered and afraid. No longer being a teacher has meant I’m constantly questioning how to define myself.
I’ve dedicated A LOT of time this past year thinking about how to reanswer this question. I’d been trying to listen for what’s next but kept coming up short.
But this week a new thought occurred to me: I’ve thought a lot about vocation but not nearly as much about call. I’ve equated call with vocation and vocation with career. My “call story” was the story of how I found a career that I loved. Until I didn’t.
I taught a unit on vocation for 4 years and I still missed the mark. My vocation story is not my call story.
Today I flipped through the pages of my journal from the last 12 months and I stumbled upon three clear moments of clarity and call. I remember writing each of these words down. I remember where I was sitting. I remember the passion that prompted them.
In El Salvador, I wrote: This place is making me thirsty for more – to DO more, BE more, and KNOW more.
In El Paso, I wrote: I am convinced more and more that my vocation is to elevate voices and share stories. This is resistance. This is the work of Christ.
In Magdala, I wrote: I heard this as I gazed on the mosaic of Jesus calling his apostles from the shores: You can do normal things well, but I’m calling you to do the great things.
All these moments of clarity, of God’s voice, were not about a career, but about a mode of being.
So I’ve been asking myself questions: What’s the bigger story? What’s behind my call to the classroom?
I wrote down things I care about: Faith. Creating Community. Education and Critical Thinking. Writing. Nature. Justice. Advocacy and Conversion. The destruction of harmful narratives.
Looking at this list, I certainly see the potential for their creation in a classroom, but I’ve also begun to wonder where else might I do this work… as a writer? in a business with a meaningful mission? Because it wasn’t teaching I loved, it was what being in a classroom with young people allowed me to create. What if teaching was the MEANS and not the END?
In many ways, my call story is just beginning. I feel like, after hours of prayerful writing and reflection, I’ve arrived at the beginning of our prompt for this week. But the questions I’m asking now, while they have a far less satisfying, tied-up-and-presented-with-a-bow type feeling, also feel more true.