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.