Tagged: Vocation

A (Usain) Bolt of Lightning And Living Your Vocations

On Sunday, Usain Bolt reclaimed his 100-meter title, winning at the world championships in Moscow. But what is really making news today is this photo of Bolt (and a bolt) after he crossed the finish line, taken by AP photographer Olivier Morin:

I usually forget about Usain Bolt unless the Olympics are happening, but this picture is a reminder of how awesome he is to watch. His hulking 6’5” frame unfolds out of the block, and he sits with the pack for the first half of the race. Then Bolt’s impossibly long strides carry him away to easy victory, like in this record-breaking run at the 2008 Beijing games:

Here is a man clearly doing one of the things he was made to do. He reminds me of a quote by Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, a devout Christian who served as a missionary in China before and after winning 400-meter Gold at the 1924 Olympics. When asked in the film why he runs competitively instead of devoting himself to ministry full-time, he says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

How in your life do you experience God’s joy? Doing that thing is one of your callings, or vocations — especially when you use it to make our planet better. That joy is a gift from God, and living in it is one of the most powerful ways to encounter the divine here on Earth. As the theologian Frederick Buechner famously said, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

Two weeks ago, my wife Genevieve and I visited her family near San Diego. While Gen spent Monday afternoon wine tasting with some high school friends, I took a drive with our friend Frank to the headquarters of the business he runs.

Frank makes mead, or honey wine, at a company he started with some college friends called Golden Coast Mead. Mead is the oldest type of fermented beverage in the world, and it pops up in the Bible, Beowulf, Shakespeare, and the Harry Potter series. Not a bad pedigree.

I learned all this from Frank, who is a mead evangelist. His eyes light up when he talks about mead, drinks mead, measures the alcoholic content of a fermenting batch of mead, and when he mops the floor in the meadery. For Frank, mead is an integral part of creating sacred moments with those you love. It’s also a way to cooperate with the miraculous honeybee and to participate in the local economy in a responsible way.

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Frank preparing to bottle a test batch of mead in Oceanside, California this month.

Mead is vocational for Frank. But his primary vocations are as a husband and a parent. His wife Theresa is a committed partner in all three of these callings, and she lives her own professional vocation as a nurse. Together, they are striving to make all of their vocations work in harmony. They are inspiring witnesses for Gen and me.

As we were packing up to head home from California, my brother Kevin was moving in to a new place on Long Island, where he’s starting grad school in music composition this fall. Kevin has been a percussionist since he was two years old, and when I watch him play or jam with him at our parents’ house, I just smile because he is so happy. The joy is contagious. Watch this video of him in the zone and you’ll see what I mean:

Kevin lives in a musical world, but, like Frank, he is devoted to sharing his passion with others. A peerless jazz devotee, Kevin recommends albums he thinks I’d like, and usually finds a way to turn conversations about college sports or politics toward music. (Because of this latter habit, I sometimes call him Schroeder.) He loves working with beginning students, hoping they’ll catch the bug, too. Kevin is also devoted to his other current vocations as brother and son — he’ll be traveling six hours round-trip to come to my sister’s college send-off dinner this weekend.

We all probably know people like Kevin and Frank, who so clearly live God’s joy and share it with others. Speaking to the crowd at St. Peter’s Square today, Pope Francis hit on a similar theme. His words invite us to reflect on how we can share God’s joy with others in our own ways —  within the specific, evolving set of vocations given to each of us. “All of us have a desire,” Pope Francis said. “Pity the person who doesn’t have a desire. Desire moves us forward, toward the horizon, and for us Christians that horizon is an encounter with Jesus, who is our life, our joy, our happiness.”