Being a great lover of words, I felt instantly drawn to a passage I recently came across: “You should utter words as though heaven were opened within them and as though you did not put the word into your mouth, but as though you had entered the word.”
This remarkably insightful and sensitive passage from Jewish philosopher Martin Buber (quoted in Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking in Water) rings true as a vocational imperative for us today.
As a writer I could also say: “You should write words as though heaven were opened within them.” As though heaven itself were opened. As though heaven were revealed. As though the Word itself was revealed.
As though? Actually, in our vocational living we move far beyond the “as though” to a living reality: We do not live as though we were somehow supposed to “be like Jesus,” no matter how popular that phrase and way of thinking might be.
We actually are anointed full-strength in the Holy Spirit to stand in the place of Jesus himself. That’s how deeply he has entrusted his mission to us. This full-strength anointing is the shocking thing about real Christian life, real Christ-centered life.
The bar indeed is raised high. To stand in the place of Jesus himself is no small thing. The threshold for commitment to living wholeheartedly for the Lord is so high that many people just walk away.
This temptation to “just walk away” was something Jesus warned against frequently in his teachings. He understood how powerful the pull within the human heart to hold back on real commitment, to keep a low profile, to just not get involved. We experience this vocational temptation in our own day, too. Real vocational living is costly. It demands tremendous courage, and is sometimes downright inconvenient.
So we could look again at Buber’s words, this time through that vocational lens. Imagine saying: I should live as though heaven were opened in my ways of living and as though I did not decide how I would live, but as though Life itself had entered into me.
In real Christ-centered life we do not get to be “deciders.” We are lifelong discerners, reading the subtle movement and promptings and invitations of the Holy Spirit in every circumstance.
We also could say: I should act as though heaven were opened within my actions. I should love as though heaven were opened within my acts of compassion, and mercy, and heartfelt presence to the one who needs to encounter the Lord’s love.
What we understand of this baptized life which we live, incarnational to the core, is this: When we act heaven in fact is opened. When we love and express compassion and real presence to another, heaven in fact is opened. We become the living, breathing, intentional revelation of the reign of God.
If you are wondering what your vocation is, this is it! You cannot mistakenly wander away from your calling, so deeply embedded is the Spirit of the living Christ within you. If you have a hard time finding God’s calling in your life, clean away some of the debris, some of the chatter, some of the preoccupation with, possibly, a need to be needed.
To carry Buber’s insight further, we indeed do not put the words in our own mouths; we do not put the vocational plan together. We do not and cannot will ourselves into holiness. With great humility and anticipation we enter into what we sometimes cannot see and surely cannot escape: God’s own generous and indisputable willing of our fullness of life in Christ. We are stewards of the great treasure of divine life within us. We are stewards of each day entrusted to us. We are stewards of each encounter, and stewards of each invitation given to us, uniquely, to enter more fully into Christ, to enter more fully into the Word himself.
Copyright 2013 Mary Sharon Moore, M.T.S.