Socrates’s admonition to reflect regularly on the deeper meaning behind our decisions can feel like one more “to-do” in our 24/7 world of constant communication and demands on our time. With all these emails to answer, who’s got time to think?
Yet the truth of his words has struck at the heart of every generation’s desire to understand themselves and the world around them. Examining our lives is what gives them meaning: we see the impact of our work and the importance of our relationships. We look back on where we have been, and we imagine where the future might lead.
Our new video narrative project—Lives Explored—takes Socrates’ wisdom to heart. By sharing everyday stories of how people understand the concept of calling in their own life, we hope to energize and inspire others to do the same. Each video reveals important insights that the storyteller realized about his or her sense of vocation, thanks to this opportunity to explore and examine their own life.
Sherice saw how her childhood dreams have been fulfilled in creative ways in her adult career. Peg remembered how God had led her through decisions in the past which gave her confidence looking into her future as a retired person. Ken recognized the impact of his work as a teacher on his students. Jane realized that the new calling she felt tugging at her heart was God communicating in the same way that she experienced as a young adult.
As the Collegeville Institute Seminars continue to capture stories of calling through Lives Explored, this project is helping to illuminate the truth behind Socrates’ well-worn words. The unexamined life is not worth living, because such gems of insight and experience might remain forever buried—both for the storyteller who profits from their unearthing and for the audience who listens to learn about their own life.
Our work with congregations has revealed that most Christians today struggle to articulate a sense of God’s calling in their lives. Rather than outdated or unhelpful definitions of vocation, we most often encounter an utter lack of understanding around the concept. Many people figure if they haven’t heard a booming voice from heaven, then they’ve never been called.
But if our theologies of creation and anthropology assert that we were created for relationship with our Creator, then we are each called by God—although not in the same ways and not to the same vocations. The rich diversity inherent in vocation is captured by the uniqueness of our individual stories. And the more we share stories of how God works in our lives, the more we see how diversely we called.
“Telling stories is as basic to human beings as eating,” writes philosopher Richard Kearny in his book, On Stories. “Only when haphazard happenings are transformed into story, and thus made memorable over time, do we become full agents of our history.” Story-telling is an empowering practice for vocational discernment. As we share our stories and listen to the words of others, our ears become attuned to God’s Word speaking among us today.
Take a moment to view one of our short video clips on vocation.
What part of the story connects with your own experience and invites you to examine your life more closely?