support

Wednesday 21 May 2008

After being linked by a few other blogs in the recent days and seeing my numbers just a bit, I figured I should maybe write a new post, since I haven’t written one (at least for my blog — the reason here) in a while and have done only a few in May. Before I get on, though, I’ll point you to one of the blogs that pointed to me (and maybe how you got here).

When I started discerning doing the work I committed my time in April and May to, I was a bit worried. I was worried about my safety, some, but probably my biggest worry was how my parents would react and whether or not they would accept and support what I was thinking of doing. (Mind you, this was way before I had a concrete date in mind and things were much more abstract — think November 2007.) Shortly after Thanksgiving, I visited the church in Chicago where I still hold my membership and discussed with my pastor (and friend) my concerns about the future but also the call that seemed to be getting stronger to really take another step in working toward peace and justice. I shared my concerns about possible estrangement if I felt a call but my parents wouldn’t support me for whatever reason, but also that I knew if I was feeling a call, I should be following that, right?

A few weeks went by and I returned to my parents’ house knowing I had to have the discussion of where I was at and what I might expect in terms of support from them. It was an emotional and tearful conversation as I shared how I was still discerning at this point in time but that I was truly concerned for my parents’ feelings, too, and was worried about fracturing our relationship and the possibility of having to choose between doing something I felt called to do and the relationships I held so dear. In the end, my parents affirmed that, though it might not be the easiest thing for them (and I might mention for me either) to accept, I should prayerfully continue to discern my call.

I think it was during that conversation that I told my mom that I knew, if worst came to worst, she’d share my story in a way similar to Cindy Sheehan, but I’d of course pray that wouldn’t be the case. I shouldn’t be surprised that even before I returned home, my parents were already sharing my story in a way that makes me more proud than I know how to express in words. I think they would say it’s an honor to have me as a son, but I certainly feel it’s an honor to have them as parents and am reminded even more so when I read words like those found in the blog mentioned above:
“Pastor Dana Bjorlin serves as a chaplain at St. Vincent and St. Anne hospitals in Toledo, and I have come to know him as a generally steady fellow. When he came to the microphone to share his son Eric’s experiences as a peace worker in the Middle East, he was overcome with emotion. When his wife, Peg, whom I’ve come to know as a generally cheery lady, observed a Circle of Truth exercise in which people role-played various folks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she was overcome with emotion.”

When I think back on it now, I question whether it was ever really “support” that I doubted or feared would be there. In 26 years I should know better, I suppose, than to question my parents’ love and support for me and my path, wherever it may lead me. I guess sometimes things need to get a little complicated for us to be reminded that there are certain guarantees in life. For me, one of those guarantees is loving and supporting family members, no matter what.

I pray the same for you.

Advertisements

on vocation and discernment

Saturday 26 April 2008

A little while ago I was asked to write a short article for the newsletter of the campus ministry I attended at college. Here is what I wrote:

There are two big words I remember hearing during my time at ULC: vocation and discernment. Pastor Lloyd reminded us all that during our time as students at Northwestern, our vocation was just that – a student at Northwestern. And when it came time for me to leave that place, it was a process of discernment I used to figure out where I would venture next. How could I “decide” where God was calling me? I needn’t worry if I had made the right decision, for I was assured that God would use me wherever I was, whatever I was doing.

I think about both of those words – vocation and discernment – as I approach the fourth anniversary of my graduation from Northwestern. After graduating in 2004, I spent my first two years teaching HS Math in the northern Chicago suburbs. However, I also spent the summer of 2005 and 2006 in Ohio, working as a camp counselor, as I had a few years during college. From there I moved to Milwaukee as a part of Lutheran Volunteer Corps – a year-long program where I lived in intentional community, attempting to live simply and sustainably while exploring spirituality and working toward social justice. My placement was in an “alternative” HS, co-teaching Math to about 100 students who didn’t quite fit into to standard Milwaukee Public Schools. This past August, when my LVC year was over, I moved to Washington, DC to take a position recruiting for LVC, in which I traveled around the Midwest, sharing about LVC at colleges and universities. I was recently hired to remain on staff to continue working with recruitment initiatives until Easter. And after that? – well, who knows!

It’s interesting to think I’ve now spent nearly as much time out of college as I did in college. But am I any closer to finding “my vocation?” A common definition of vocation is that of Frederick Buechner: “The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And what happens when you throw the idea of discernment into the mix? Mustn’t we allow ourselves time to figure things out?

What I’ve come to believe is two-fold: First, our entire lives are a process of discernment. From the time we can talk, we’re asked something like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Thus begins one process of discernment. As we age, we are constantly discerning the kinds of relationships we want in our lives and if there might be a significant one among them. As I move around and do different “jobs,” I’m continuing to discern where to go and what to do next. And even if I come to a place I’m happy with, I’ll continue to discern whether to stay in that place and position or to maybe do something else.

Which flows into my second realization: Our vocation isn’t some job that’s perfect for us, but truly is, “The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.” In all my different locations and positions, I feel I’ve been filling the hunger of the world around me while finding deep gladness throughout. There might not be one “job” I’m called to for life but instead many positions which fulfill my vocation.

So as I daily discern where God is calling me, I think of my vocation always in light of Micah 6:8b — “Do justice, loves kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

eric (CAS ’04) was a peer minister for three years while at ULC. You can learn more about LVC at www.LutheranVolunteerCorps.org and read eric’s blog @ ericbjorlin.wordpress.com