A few weeks ago, I offered the analogy of the Slinky as a serendipitous example of the ways calling can go off course and still end up in a holy place. Richard James, inventor of the Slinky, was trying to create springs to keep sensitive ship equipment stable out at sea. He wasn’t trying to create an amazing toy. And this isn’t a one off, rare example. There are many others including: corn flakes, silly putty, potato chips, the pacemaker, post it notes, and penicillin. All those started off as mistakes. For example, delicious potato chips were “discovered” by a chef responding to a French customer who kept sending fries back to the kitchen until that chef made them so crisp they became the famous potato chip. Art Fry wanted to find ways to stick papers into his hymnal for church choir that would not fall out and viola the Post-it note was born. Yet another benefit of church! Sometimes we start off heading in one direction only to take a U-turn, followed by a quick left, then right, and end up in a neighborhood we have never seen before.
I pray that you are hearing in these morning meditations this week the permission that you don’t (probably won’t) have your whole calling all figured out even as we wind down and wrap up the sermon series. I hope you hear that your five-week plan is fuzzy, and your five-month plan might have a great deal of fiction. Things shift and swirl and spin in new directions and we try to pivot.
One final part of the Samuel story is in the beautiful interplay between the interior and exterior life. Your calling will have both components. God comes to Samuel in the night when Samuel is all alone. God calls to Samuel, causing Samuel’s heart to strangely warm. Yet, this wasn’t just the interior call about Samuel feeling God’s love. Samuel had an exterior call too. He needed to stand up and share the words God had laid on his heart. Interior/exterior.
Both matter and make a difference. Interior life is about listening to our shy soul, where our heart surges and mind is curious, and God speaks. Then, the exterior life are the people who support you and how you share your light. Also, there are ones who stand in your way ~ as God can work through even those who push all your buttons. You move constantly from the interior to the exterior parts of calling ~ often without really giving this much thought. You sense the Sacred guiding your step in that direction, you take the next logical step. You may feel your heart glow, or you may stumble and fall flat on your face. Or maybe it is somewhere in-between, in the messy middle. Sometimes we go a few steps, only to realize how fraught with fears the next few moments will be and wonder if we can keep on keeping on. Or maybe things start off awesome and you can almost see a major mile maker right ahead. And you blink and the mile marker is now missing, gone in a flash!
When have mistakes and miscues actually guided you in a holy way? When have those mistakes and miscues caused frustration to fume within you and pour out your ears? When has the sailing of calling been smooth? When has it been rough and rocky?
Pray these questions this week. May the One who move in all things and through all things ~ from calm to chaos center you as you seek prayerfully to follow your calling in these days. Amen.