Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

December 09, 2004

Calling and Love

The secular version of calling is "chasing your dream." Our school teachers urge us on in this chase from the earliest grades, with a conviction that only by this means will we achieve happiness and/or "great things." We even learn that discipline and dedication and sacrifice will be required of us. We learn that our dreams are ours alone, and set us apart, and that in chasing them we will find ourselves, and that we will be marching to the beat of a different drummer, and isn’t that, after all, the very mark of greatness.

This dreaming is the blueprint for great souls, as the world sees it. But in truth it is a kind of idol-worship. We magnify our dreams and bend our very souls to the task of pursuing them. And in fact, it is possible to achieve many great things by this pursuit. In The Call Guinness provides the memorable example of Pablo Picasso. Everything was sacrificed on the alter of his art; even, many would say, his humanity.

But calling is not like that. To walk in one’s calling is a following, not a pursuit. Guinness is helpful here. He contrasts two traditional views of love: eros and agape. Eros he calls "the great ascent." This is "love as desire, yearning, or appetite aroused by the attractive qualities of the object of desire. ... From this perspective, seeking is loving that becomes desiring that becomes possessing that becomes happiness." Or, as the bumper sticker says, "Saw it, wanted it, had to get it, got it."

Agape, though, is "the great descent." In this case, "love seeks out the seeker– not because the seeker is worthy of love but simply because love'’s nature is to love regardless of the worthiness or merit of the one loved." Most Christians have heard it said that Christ modeled agape love. To follow Him is to follow in the way of love. The question of calling then is the question: How best may I--that is, I in particular--show forth the love of Christ?


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