As I updated my Linked In profile today, it felt like I was writing an early draft of my obituary. Perhaps the difference between the two documents lies mainly in timing. A LinkedIn profile covers work in progress. An obituary doesn’t show up until our work is done.
Since LinkedIn is a professional tool, the information has to fit certain parameters: keep it positive; use active verbs; highlight results; quantify accomplishments. I tried to do those things. But as I crafted my profile, I thought about the transitions from one position to another. Words on paper convey a certain inevitability; they even create their own reality. But the real reasons for job transitions might be different from the ones we announce. After all, we know that professional transitions are supposed to look seamless and logical. Defensible. But transitions are rarely seamless, and in my life, at least, might appear to make little sense. Yet there is more to life than logic.
Why did I leave a successful church position in order to write a book, for which I had no publishing contract? What about salary, benefits, pension? Why did I take a lowly job as an administrator when my previous positions had entailed significant responsibility? What about the career ladder?
To an outsider, my decisions might appear daft! But I did not make them based solely on bettering my finances, or climbing a ladder. Like many people, I was following my sense of the Spirit’s leading.
I have followed the Spirit my whole life. That Spirit led me to seminary, and from there to ordained ministry. It was not an easy beginning, but eventually I thrived as a pastor and preacher. I loved immersing myself in words and the Word. But after a couple of decades, I felt the Spirit calling me into a different vocation of words. I let go of the sure thing (the pastoral role), to take up something less sure (the writer’s pen, okay, keyboard). Along the way I have been blessed. I have the support of my husband and family, the encouragement of a few people who believe in my gifts, and outlets for my writing. Even so, I have had to let many good things fall away, which has not been easy.
I like to read obituaries. A good one is more than a chronological listing of a person’s accomplishments. It gives a sense of a life. An obituary hints at the complexity that is each one of us. Who was this person and what calling did they find irresistible? How did various responsibilities arise in their life, and how did they meet those? What passions did they pursue? A life’s trajectory is not smooth and predictable — at least not the interesting ones. In fact, the most significant decisions might appear unlikely. Perhaps that is even the mark of the Spirit at work.
A quote attributed to John Calvin is this: “True wisdom consists in two things: Knowledge of God and Knowledge of Self.” What I’m recognizing is the lifelong character of these quests, which are related. Who can fully know either God or self, and the relation between these two?
Each believer attempts to follow God’s call. Each wrestles with vocation. This is the process of discernment, one of the tasks of discipleship.
What decisions are you ruminating about these days? As “back to school” approaches, a sort of new year appears. What calls to you during this season? May you feel the Spirit’s leading as you ponder the decisions that will someday appear on your obituary!