Your Talent and the World’s Need

Your Talent and the World’s Need

Aristotle said you find your purpose at the intersection of your talents and the world’s need. Frederick Buechner wrote that your calling is where the world’s deep hunger meets your deep gladness. Finding one’s calling is the last great task of early adulthood. Sometimes it remains elusive for decades.

My calling has always been clear. I am a communicator. I was once asked if I had a life phrase. Without contemplation I answered, “To alleviate spiritual suffering.” (As a former editor, I value brevity.) In fair measure my answer was accurate. For so many of the people with whom I interact, the church has been a place of great suffering. I wanted to alleviate the suffering. I still do.

Many churches are filled with loving saints and angry fundamentalists. One group gives life. The other saps the soul. I wanted to do something about it. I spent a lot of years trying to tell people who thought they were not okay that they were, in fact, okay.

We are all formed by our experiences. My experience of the church has been like my experience of life – paradoxical. From the same place comes goodness and evil, darkness and light. When I was young I had big plans. I wanted to end all darkness. Nowadays I am content to shine my flashlight in whatever dark cave I happen to encounter.  I am okay with my limitations.

In the recent HBO series, True Detective, the two principle characters became obsessed with the extremely dark side of life. I was surprised when in the final minutes of the season finale one of them looked at the night sky and said, “I believe the stars are winning.” I don’t know who the show runners were for True Detective, but I like the way they think. Evil might have its day, but the light wins.

Of late, I too have seen a lot of the dark side of life.  I’m reminded of Scott Peck’s statement that 99 percent of the world’s evil is done by people convinced they are absolutely right.  I’ve got lots of doubts about lots of things, but of this much I am certain.  There is too much suffering, and somebody needs to help alleviate it.


3 thoughts on “Your Talent and the World’s Need

  1. Paula, I am so grateful for your honesty in this blog. I am an attender of LBCC and was just discussing how much I missed hearing your sermons, and then I received the link to your blog and learned of your recent experiences. My heart aches for the many many people who feel unwelcome and condemned by the church, because they don’t fit the adequate profile of what a Christian should be. Have you found a church in the area where you are fully accepted and loved as Paula? This is the church I want to go to. My husband and I have three children…we want to raise them up in the ways of Jesus and His love and grace. I would love to discuss more with you via email, if possible. If you follow me on twitter (which I don’t post anything, ever), we can communicate there…@jentjepsen


  2. I continue to learn from you as I did on our runs with Phil Kenneson in these Tennessee mountains, and in you columns in the Standard. I constantly am enlightened by your words. Now is no exception. In fact, your columns have been useful in my encounter with a friend recently. I invited him to read your recent columns. You cannot leave ministry; your talents and insights are as rich as ever.
    Please give Jonathan my regards. I met a physician in Johnson City recently who reminded me that he and Jonathan missed my social psychology class to do some research in a local cemetery! I am glad that they both have found ministry to be their strength.
    Don’t stop; keep sharing your insights.
    Bert Allen


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