By: Kate Henley Averett
We were on our way back from a spring break service trip to Kentucky, where we spent a rain-drenched week helping build houses with the Christian Appalachian Project. Having spent the night on our two-day trek back to Massachusetts at a hotel in Philadelphia, I dragged my weary body to the lobby to grab some free continental breakfast. The “morning people” in my group (I’m definitely not one) were already finishing off their cereal, muffins, and cups of bad hotel coffee when I arrived, but Jaime, our campus minister, stayed at the table with me so I wouldn’t have to eat alone. As we chatted about the week, Jamie asked, somewhat casually, “Have you ever thought you might have a calling to ministry?” At that moment, something clicked. For just a split second, everything seemed clear. It wasn’t a dramatic thing – I didn’t jump out of my seat and yell “Here I am, Lord!” or prostrate myself on the ground and sigh “Speak, for your servant is listening.” But in a more subtle way, in that moment, I felt myself open up to whatever it was that was pulling me. What that was, I had no idea, but somewhere deep inside, I answered it anyway.
Lately, this brief moment of clarity seems a distant memory, and I look back at my younger self, so sure and so eager to answer the call, with envy. I finished my MDiv in June, yet I feel directionless, and, lacking something concrete to orient me, I’m frustrated and restless. I find myself constantly questioning the whole concept of calling. I want to know what I’m called to do. I want clear directions from on high, blueprints for the ark, to hear the still, small voice tell me “this is your life’s work, go and do it” – and then give me clear and specific directions for how to get it done.
But today’s readings remind me that that’s just not how it works. In the first reading, Samuel answers God when his name is called. Despite Samuel’s words, “speak, for your servant is listening,” the passage doesn’t tell us what God said back. In fact, it doesn’t even tell us that God spoke back. For all we know, Samuel didn’t hear anything concrete in reply, yet we are assured that God was with Samuel, guiding his life and work. Similarly, in the Gospel reading, Andrew drops what he’s doing to follow Jesus, despite not knowing, really, what he was getting himself into. I imagine that when he saw Jesus, and heard John refer to him as the Lamb of God, he had a moment like mine, where something clicked and things felt clear, though he had no concrete idea of what to expect. I know that others have answered a call without knowing what, exactly, the call is. This doesn’t make me feel any less frustrated, and it certainly doesn’t erase my desire to have plans laid out for me. But it does help to be reminded that, just because we don’t have a clear idea of what our calling is, doesn’t mean that we aren’t answering it. Perhaps, like Samuel, even as I type, God is ensuring that my words will not be without effect?
Kate Henley Averett is a nanny, choreographer, queer activist, writer, and wannabe TV critic. She lives with her partner in Cambridge, MA, and spends much of her time in a general state of religious and existential crisis.