by Adam Burns
Here at Vocation Brisbane we stress a lot about the questioning or searching for God's call. Our infamous tagline is "Where are you going?" The question is important of course, otherwise we wouldn't stress it so much. It implies that something lays ahead, something remains to be discovered or uncovered in our lives. And it emphasizes that that discovering or uncovering requires effort, searching or realisation. It might cause reflection: going forwards in a direction means coming from a previous place in life. In all of this it can be hard to articulate presence because the notion of vocation is that there is always more on offer; throughout the whole of our earthly lives there will never be a stage where we can no longer realise a calling on our lives. The Present is the forgotten middle child between the older, accomplished Past and the younger, promising Future.
Discernment needs to be tempered with presence. When we ask "where am I going?", we also can say "I'm here!". Often what gets lost when we dream about states of life or our future is that part of our calling is to love and serve God and others in the everyday. When Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha he desires firstly their presence before their service (Lk 10:38-42). Saying "I'm here" means being present to the lives of those in our very sphere of influence, in our homes, at our workplaces, in our community. Its being attentive to God's presence in our own lives - rather than chasing divine calls falling from the heavens.
"I'm here" is the decisive statement of the vocation journey. When I entered the seminary I was essentially saying, "I'm here, I want to serve with my whole life, is this the way?" It was an "I'm here" statement which grounded my "where am I going" question. Again, when I proposed to my girlfriend, when I asked her to marry me I was ultimately saying "I'm here, I'm serious about what we mean to each other and I want to spend the rest of my life with you!" It was the necessary statement which grounded our fantasies and turned them into a vision of what our life together will be like.
Look, we don't need to make everything about massive, existential, defining decisions. Saying "I am here" could simply mean taking up an extra task at work or at home which makes like a little bit easier for everyone else. It's an accountability statement, which ensures we don't shirk our current responsibilities in the name of "discernment", since discernment itself depends on our life being engaged in the here and now of life. Being present prevents us from being cosmological navel gazers, searching for life's meaning by sitting back and looking within ourselves.
Unfortunately, vocation is too often presented as this far-off, once-of decision that we make as adults for rest of our life. It becomes the stuff of dreams or fantasy, or even the cause of despair as each option is compared to the other. Yet, when we reflect on what the statement "I'm here!" means for each of our lives, we're confronted with the immediacy of vocation, the everyday calling of loving and serving both God and others regardless of yesterday, today or tomorrow. When we submerge ourselves in the present we in fact find the stimulus for those greater existential questions. We find there's enough going on here and now to keep us busy until we arrive at those life decisions.