The Next Forty Days, Day 15–Searching for What’s Next

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner

I have loved this quote since the first time I read it back in the mid-1990s, because it spoke so clearly to me about what it meant to have a mission, a life purpose, a calling. I have always thought I had a calling, and have spent the better part of my life trying to figure out what it is. I’ve read many books on callings and finding your life purpose and figuring out what you should be, want to be, want to do, etc. What would it be like, I wonder, to be in a position in which you know that the work you’re doing aligns with what the world really needs, that you can find joy and purpose–your deep gladness–in working on the world’s most significant needs.

I have found myself at a crossroads before when I was trying to figure out my “what’s next,” in terms of vocation. For some reason I keep getting drawn back in to working on social justice issues. I’ve become a “warrior” for causes of equity and diversity and for creating opportunities for people to be able to bring their whole, complete, and entire selves to their workplace, classrooms, etc. without having to leave pieces of their identity behind. I can scarcely say this is my deep gladness. I know the work is important. I’m committed to it, and for the most part I believe I do it well, bit it does not bring me joy.

We’re not all going to always love the work we do; way too many people actually hate what they’re doing for a living. But there are others who happily stumble upon the situation that is just right for them and here comes the bliss. Part of the exploration during these 40 days might well be how we determine what our next gig is and how that aligns with what the world’s deep hunger is.

Jesus knew what he was here to do. Even if he hadn’t known before–but of course he did–his cousin John told him. So he spent three years ministering to people, healing them, preaching to them, offering them hope. He knew his purpose and he set about doing it. There’s the story in the gospels that recounts when a young 12 year old Jesus wanders away from his parents’ home. His mother, frantic with worry, finally zeroed in on where he was, finding him in the temple, listening to the elders and exchanging ideas with them about what it means to love and serve god. Mary about had heart failure, and when she finally asked what he was doing, he calmly explained to her that he was about his father’s business, and by “father” he meant God. He knew his purpose from an early age, and he grew into it.

I believe that each of us has an inkling when we are children of what it is we are created to do, and if we are fortunate enough to figure that out and have the opportunity to explore it, pursue it, live it, we are truly in a place of deep gladness. The good news is that it is never too late to determine our true passion and find ways to actualize it, to turn that passion into action for the benefit of self and of others. It’s not as easy as it is when we’re young, but it’s quite possible. I have to believe it in part for my own sake. You see, once my journey through the next 40 days and the next few years winds down, I can turn from my warrior ways to and find my deep gladness in peaceful pursuits. What might your journey look like if you allow your deep gladness to emerge? It is definitely worth pursuing to find out.

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