Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Calling

A blog comment dialog concerning prayer:

Woman in a Window said...
I think this of fundamental importance, that none of us negates the other's specialness, either in the day to day, or in the eyes of god, or in a line at a theatre. If we could all get our hands around that one, and our minds, we'd all be doing pretty well. - JULY 16, 2009 2:33 PM

christopher replied...
Erin, I agree with you. I would like to enrich the notion. I think of how Christians I have known use the idea of talent or calling. We are indeed special, and it is to a purpose. Without that we are perhaps not so special.

This is where it gets a little thick though. Things get thick because the purpose behind the call is plainly much larger than we are, and quite likely not of our choosing. We will fit the calling but maybe quite strangely considering our own point of view. This tends to demand an enriching our own character so that we begin to know and enact humility. I mean the kind of humility that is you or me finding our right size.

I can't figure out what about us is so special if it does not involve following the purposeful path that not only arises beyond us but leads us to return there as well. There is a cycle present though it may extend well beyond the portals of human birth and death. Reinhold Niebuhr commented that nothing worth doing can be finished in one lifetime. That might be completely true in relation to a call and I am sure that is how Niebuhr meant his words as well.

I should mention at this point that we are not special because we are loved, and we are certainly loved, but we may not be capable of the richest love ourselves unless we do follow our calling. This is the heart of the civilizing process, of maturation. - JULY 17, 2009 8:05 PM

Wiki says:

Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr; (June 21, 1892 – June 1, 1971) was an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. Starting as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, he shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, explaining how the sin of pride created evil in the world. He attacked utopianism as useless for dealing with reality, writing in The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944):
"Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."
His realism deepened after 1945 and led him to support American efforts to confront Soviet communism around the world. A powerful speaker and lucid author, he was the most influential religious leader of the 1940s and 1950s in American public affairs. Niebuhr battled with the religious liberals over what he called their naïve views of sin and the optimism of the Social Gospel, and battled with the religious conservatives over what he viewed as their naïve view of Scripture and their narrow definition of "true religion."

His long-term impact involves relating the Christian faith to "realism" in foreign affairs, rather than idealism, and his contribution to modern "just war" thinking. Niebuhr's perspective had a great impact on many liberals, who came to support a "realist" foreign policy. His influence has been acknowledged by such recent leaders of American foreign policy as Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama.

Alcoholics Anonymous acknowledges the young Niebuhr for his penning of what has come to be called the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
It is quite possible Reinhold Niebuhr was called and followed as best he could. So may we all be called and follow.


  1. Ah Ghost, I am still here. Went out to dinner last night and got real involved in the world so no time for my blog is all.

  2. between this, what you write here, what Niebuhr writes, seeing woman in a window and speaking with my son, "mom, do you go to those old blogs?" me: "not really son. they are who i was. i have been many people. you will be too." and holding my breath for him to call out the thread that holds all of the people i have been. and then reading rilke this morning,

    I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
    to make each hour holy.
    I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough
    to be simply in your presence, like a thing—
    just as it is.

    i am thinking that becoming a hermit might be a wise thing, the only right decision. i am not knowing how to live this calling out amongst people. people are the way and yet get in the way. it's a cat's cradle. and i laugh, as though i understand what this calling is. and yet i feel it as though i hear and should go home for dinner. home...where is home? only the woods answers me fully or a moment - a moment inwhich i see.


  3. (((Erin)))

    The trick is understanding and accepting the strangeness. You are on the path, cannot fall far from it, so long as you do not enact an actual rebellion.

    We tend to be in self created misery in that we expect straighter lines, more economical changes, more sense of purpose, and above all more assurance than actually happens.

    Remember nature's idea of straight lines are seen in the river's eventual meander again and again on the way to the sea. This is exactly the interrelationship of all with all. There is no hermitage complete enough to avoid the meandering. We are too deeply interdependent for that.

    Loving you, cherishing you. This love is vital. Clearly spanning more than two years, we are surely part of each other. This is the closest thing to stability there is in this life, this intentional decision toward love.

  4. i am grateful for this prayer.

  5. Me too. There are other verses to it but they were not written by Niebuhr. He wrote the four lines above only.

  6. (((This is the closest thing to stability there is in this life, this intentional decision toward love.)))!



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