I find stories of such heroism truly inspiring. However, they often leave me wondering about the rest of us. Ordinary mortals like you and me might not have been given, as of yet anyway, such dramatic roles to play in this world. What, then, is asked of us?
In Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, Franciscan priest, author, and lecturer, Richard Rohr, urges us not to be sidetracked by comparing ourselves to those who have reached great heights. He encourages us instead to seek our own personal calling.
“When we see that the world is enchanted, we see the revelation of God in each individual as an individual,” he writes. “Our job is not to be Mother Teresa, our job is not to be St. Frances~~it is to do what is ours to do.” He reminds us that St. Frances of Assisi’s final words as he lay dying were, “I have done what was mine to do; now you must do what is yours to do.”
We each arrive in this world with certain capabilities. This raw material is then shaped in various ways as our interactions with others are filtered through the culture in which we live and the peculiarities of what might be called fortune. We are not passive in this process. Particularly as we mature, many of us find that we can, that we must, choose our personal response to the undertaking that is life.
Because of the sheer variety of all these components, each one of us is truly a singular and evolving expression of the divine energy that imbues all creation.
“There is a unique truth that our lives alone can reflect,” writes Rohr. Our task, then, is to live from that divinely~inspired place that is ours alone, allowing it to shine out into the world.
Our calling may arise within a vocation or through a talent diligently refined over the course of a lifetime. We might be drawn to nurture others in their journey through the grand cycle of life and death. Or perhaps we are called simply (hah!) to be a kind and good person in every situation we come upon.
There are, indeed, an untold number of expressions of this quest to authentically be the person one is, as purely and as clearly as possible. “We must find out what part of the mystery is ours to reflect, “writes Rohr. “The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the mystery of our own reality. That is everybody’s greatest cross.”
In my work as a psychotherapist, I have the honor of witnessing folks engaging in the hard work of deeply experiencing their wounds. As they make peace with these hurt places, it is as though a lens is cleansed of debris and an essence is freed to radiate out with increasing brilliance. They grow larger, stronger and more radiant before my eyes.
It seems oftentimes that, in entering and healing our hurt places, we can come into ourselves more wholly and find our greatest gifts revealed. But these gifts arise through engaging our strengths, passions and delights as well.
To become fully oneself, within the context of a greater wisdom, seems indeed our personal calling, our cross to bear~~though this experience often arrives with more joyousness than that phrase readily conveys.
And besides, what other choice is there, really, than to be who we are. As Oscar Wilde puts it, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
May we each come more fully to reflect the part of the Mystery that is ours alone to express.