Everyone has a calling. It may lie dormant for many years, or even for a lifetime, buried beneath a plethora of distractions: selfish ambition, worry and other fears. It may be hindered by mental and emotional confusion, severe poverty of a material, spiritual, or mental nature, Such burials are grievous because they smother the calling that would have enriched a life; that would have touched many lives, and made a difference in the world.
Sometimes, a calling changes faces throughout a lifetime, but it never changes forms. Maybe you didn’t know that a calling could wear the face of sorrow at times, while the heart beats steady in answer to the call.
I faced the challenge of using every ounce of strength I had to hold a failing family together and protect the youngest members of it for a good part of my life. The form I took to fulfill that challenge was not the best. I surrendered to an evil that threatened to destroy those I loved most and lost myself in the process. I absorbed the evil in order to use it up, to keep it from spreading to younger siblings and doing to them what it had already done to me. Like a spongy barrier, I soaked it up, saturating every cell in my mind, body, and soul, with the sickness of it. That is the only way a child knows to do it. She has no other resources. She has only her “self” and it is herself that she places in harms way to meet the challenge of the call.
The call is one of compassion. “Greater love has no man than this,” the Teacher, Preacher, Son of God, said, “that he lay down his life for another.” My calling wore the face of sorrow from the age of twelve-- when I first realized I could run away but couldn’t forsake my siblings, until the age of thirty-three when the last of my siblings was safely out of the range of a mad man’s rage, and I actually did so. I boarded a plane bound for a state far away from the danger I had faced for a lifetime, and sat trembling in my seat, looking out a window, thinking, “I am safe.” And for the first time in my life, I was.
My calling, anchored then in the helplessness I had learned in my earliest years and resignation to a fate I thought I could not escape, keep me alive. I was called to love and protect in my own flawed way those I loved but couldn’t rescue. Some of my siblings saw no need of rescue, they were the ones my mother favored and she offered them some measure of protection. They were taken under her wings and her feathers were ruffled when the fox got in the henhouse. The rest of us were desperate for escape. One of my siblings considered the “easy way” of ending it, just as I did. She too was compelled to a call and she is living it out today and touching lives in a community that leans on her strength and draws on her wisdom.
In their own way each of the children raised in the crucible of suffering that was our home is pursuing the call, reaching out to others—all in different forms but with the same face, that of a survivor who knows that there is evil in the world but relies on a strength greater than his/or her own to pursue the call.
A calling is a cliff that rises high above the plateau of life. It offers many faces to the world and each face requires different skills that must be learned in order to survive the climb. I have scaled the face of sorrow and learned the lessons it offered. As I write my books and share my story, I am scaling another face of that same cliff, propelled upward by compassion for those who suffer still in a dangerous climb out of the crucible of suffering. I shout encouragement to those who follow after, “I’m still climbing and the view is great. Just keep on climbing and you’ll rise above the suffering.”
Still, there are dangers on my side of the cliff, I am not ignorant of them. I just know that the same strength that compels me to climb will keep me from falling.