Last night, I read a beautiful chapter from Kathleen Norris’ (poet turned memoirist) The Cloister Walk, a memoir of her time in residence at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota, living thoroughly within the monastic tradition.
In the piece I was reading, Norris had been listening to a reading of the book of Jeremiah (lectio continua), and she was beginning to feel a bit of kinship with Jeremiah: the calling of a prophet much like the calling of a poet.
For years, Norris felt condemned by her “otherness” or strangeness as the calling of poet stirred within her. Jeremiah, too, laments how he is missed and misunderstood by his contemporaries. God even tells Jeremiah, “You shall speak to them and they will not listen; you shall call and they shall not answer (7:27).
Ever feel that way? Norris sure did. She was feeling insecure and out of place in her calling, even a bit condemned for her lack of credentials and audacity to think herself an artist.
But throughout this chapter, she begins to come to terms with her call–with the help of Jeremiah—realizing that others have also labored over their calling and distrusted it and scorned it. Like the prophets did, lamenting as they went. And yet, she could begin to see that perhaps the role of the poet wasn’t that much different than the role of prophet.
She writes, “A prophets task is to reveal the fault lines hidden beneath the comfortable surface of the worlds we invent for ourselves, the national myths as well as the little lies and delusions of control and security that get us through the day. . . . As the carrier of hope through disastrous times, prophets are a necessary other. And we reject them because they make us look at the way things really are; they don’t allow us to deny our pain” (34, 45).
How many of us struggle with what we’ve been called to do? Whether it’s motherhood or writing or pastoring or teaching or ?????, our calling can produce as much angst as anything. Why did God think I could do this?
I truly loved Norris’ quoting of Jeremiah 2:25, “Stop wearing out your shoes.”
Are you running from God’s voice today? Wearing out your shoes trying to get away from his work in your life?
Perhaps we could all benefit from stopping. Breathing. Embracing the given call even with all its incongruence and questions.