Obsession and Calling

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Obsession and Calling
Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova is the latest book in my Left to Write Book Club. It is a beautifully crafted mystery about obsession, art, calling and love. Kostova, also author of The Historian, weaves a story across centuries and disconnected lives to make profound comments about humanity.

The novel evokes thought on many levels but dealing with one's calling has always been a topic to which I'm drawn because of my own struggle with what am I supposed to be doing in this life, at this time, with these particular skills. I used to think I was cursed by having many of my skills in the performance arts. My truly talented artist friend commented to me recently, "When your talents and skills are in the arts, the only measure of success seems to be fame." Hardly seems fair.

I also think I am called to ministry. My passion for theology, serving others and seeking justice informs my work on a daily basis in spite of the fact that I am currently not serving a congregation.

I also think the writing of my memoir is my calling because it is a story of hope in spite of more than a fair share of the difficulties in life.

And then I remembered this:

The summer my son Sims, then twenty-five years old, summited Mt. Kenya, I had a profound dream. Earlier that day my friend Rachel Childress called to say another dear friend Thelma had had several strokes. I must have gone to bed thinking about Thelma and about parenting a man-child who hangs from mountains in Africa.

The room in the dream appeared to be a doctor’s clinic. I knew, however, that it was heaven. I, very much still alive, demanded to know what Thelma would be doing in heaven when she got there. The white-coated “official” said “Don’t you understand? Heaven is where we all do what we’re best at. Thelma, of course, will be teaching Sunday School.” My heart rested easy then about Thelma. When she died her actual obituary began “Sunday School teacher for thirty-seven years.”

The dream continued. The official in charge left the room. I eyed rows upon rows of file cabinets and wondered if my file would be in there even though I was still living. Wild to know what job I would be doing in heaven, I sneaked over to the appropriate drawer and quickly found my full name on a file. I took a deep breath and opened it. There---alone in the file---lay a single sheet of paper with one word on it---mother.

updated: 6 years ago


MelissaWednesday, January 12th 2011 8:16PM

I was so deeply moved by this...I have tears in my eyes as I write.  I, too, have been thinking a lot about what I am meant to do in this lifetime...and I want mother to be enough--to have loved and parented well, but there are times I doubt myself.  Your dream validated my experience.  I'll be back.  Best, Melissa

Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughtful comments. I think any parent worth their PTA card doubts themselves. It is a side effect of parenting. I hope you will read my memoir, Melissa, and know that parenting was certainly not the romantic vision this dream may have painted. But there is nothing I have ever done or will do that means as much to me as being the mother of my two extraordinary sons.

EmilyWednesday, January 12th 2011 5:42PM

What an incredible dream! I will be proud to be judged as "Mother" being the best thing I have done in my life when my time comes.

If that wasn't a sign from God, I don't know what is!

I can't even begin to tell you the great irony of the dream. I had two incredibly challenging children and if the dream meant turning out the best "product," I am far from the best. If the dream meant doing all things right as mother, I am definitely not the best. But if the dream meant hanging there past what all sane persons would have, then being a mother is truly what I am best at in this life!

Thanks for the comment!

Bay @Queen Mother BlogTuesday, January 11th 2011 11:13PM

Wow! I was thinking as I read the line about "everyone does what they're best at", "what the heck am I best at?"  It's easy to think 'mother' right now when I'm in the trenches of being a stay at home mom and pregnant to boot, but it's interesting to me that you still think 'mother' 25 years later when your child is off on their own.  Cool post :)

The great irony is that I would never have chosen motherhood as what I'm best at THEN or NOW. But the irony of the dream is that nothing in my life has required more of me than rearing two extraordinary young men. My son Mark was killed in 2002. My son Sims is now 37 and the father of my two fabulous grandchildren!


TaylorTuesday, January 11th 2011 9:03PM

Whoa -what a dream!!!

That's wonderful about having a calling - it is a tough thing to wander through life, lost. I think my calling is being a mother, which is so important. Thanks for sharing all of this!

Thanks for the comment, Taylor. Finding your calling is perhaps the most important task we face on this earth. While there are many noble callings, creating and nurturing the next generation may be the most important calling there is!

Swan Thieves - Identity SearchTuesday, January 11th 2011 6:28PM

Meaning in life for all of us is central to our humanity, but it is not easy to identify for many.  In community and relationships we often discover our meaning - at least that has been my experience.  

I was pushed to a new perspective on my life as I encountered folks from way outside my culture and country through international travel.  But upon further reflection, like in Swan Thieves, people we encounter every day can also help us to see ourselves better IF we are open to it and pay attention!  I encourage us all to attend to our self awareness as well as the perspective from others.  Even from our dreams like Brenda did!

There are different routes for all of us to finding our calling. Thanks for sharing your route!