Discernment: Where Our Deep Gladness meets the World’s Deep Need

Frederick Buechner that, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

A vocation is a call to live into our deepest, most life-giving and loving identity. It can be a call to a person, community, place, specific task, type of service, specific way of living, and/or something else or more. Some calls are situational and short-term, some are life long.

Good mental health practice requires discernment of my life-giving call so as not be overwhelmed by the world’s needs.

Discernment of how to live out of our truest self is a life-long process. It’s important to take time and get good counsel when making life altering decisions. The questions below give a broad overview but are not meant to be specific directions for any one who reads this blog.

Questions to aid in discernment:

In Indigenous wisdom, what are my responsibilities to others and to the earth?

What am I good at? What gifts are seen in me by those who know and love me best? Often, we brush off as insignificant and not valuable what comes easily for us, but others will recognize those gifts. 

What life experience has caused an empathy and longing in me?

Most importantly: what gives me joy? In Buechner’s words, what gives me a deep gladness or a peace that can co-exist with suffering? Responding to what Buechner calls the “world’s deep needs” brings us face to face with suffering. 

A vocation calls us to live in trust, because it calls from us inner gifts and strengths that we didn’t know we had. There is room for sadness and grief in living out one’s vocation. Father Ron Rolheiser concludes that “easy” is not the mark of vocation, but “meaning”. That which gives us meaning gives us joy.   

One’s experience of vocation may follow this trajectory: “And the truth is, that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower:  until at last, he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do….”  (from: A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin).

I understand this quote: in the end we do what we do because we must, we are compelled from the inside. We have no peace unless we follow that inner light.