Ponderings with Doug January 24, 2020

The movies contain several examples of people who received a call to a higher cause but resisted until the call finally got so strong that he (and it’s usually a he) gives in. Many of the old Humphrey Bogart movies have this theme: Casablanca, Key Largo and African Queen. Other examples are Russell Crowe in Gladiator and Robin Hood, and Mel Gibson in Braveheart and The Patriot.

There’s also the famous 19th-century poem “The Hound of Heaven,” which has a man running incessantly from a “hound” God sends to track him and chase him down until he gives over his life to service of the gospel. Most of us would prefer never having such a “call.”

Richard Dreyfuss in Mr. Holland’s Opus is a slow-moving version. He has a calling to be a high-school music teacher, but he wants to be a famous composer. He takes a job teaching as a “temporary gig” to make a little money until he can finish his opus. He stays there against his will (but secretly feeling fulfilled and meaningful) for the rest of his career. At the end of the movie, we discover that Mr. Holland’s “opus” is actually his teaching career. It was his calling; he denied it to the end and then discovered he’d been living it out without even realizing it.

That same variation is also found in one of the many versions of the legend of the Holy Grail. In it, Perceval feels a “call” to track down the Holy Grail, and he wanders his entire life looking for it. In his travels, he does great things and helps many people. At the end of his life, he stops at a monastery for some rest. He’s weary and depressed that he’s wasted his life and never discovered the one true thing he’s searched for all his life.

The monks tell Perceval two things. One is that he has become famous in the region for being the knight with the big heart who has rescued and healed people across the landscape. Although Perceval never physically reached his goal, his goal was actually achieved in the journey.

The second thing they told Perceval was that the Grail was about half a mile down the road and that he had circled around it hundreds of times in his travels. If he’d only known where his “home” was, he would have realized that he’d actually been there all his life. (This, by the way, is the central theme in Sandra Tsing Loh’s book If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now.)

Perceval had actually responded to and lived out his “call,” even though he never knew it.

Deep within your soul is your calling. You know about it and feel it. You may or may not have lived it out. Your calling comes into focus when you are satisfied. When you are living fully in the here and now. You are not making plans for tomorrow. You are not engaged in any improvement plans; you are satisfied and mindful in the moment. You are likely living out your call. Your calling is unique to you.

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