Dr Laly Mathew
Standing in reverence at the tomb of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I was musing with awe and devotion on her unique calling to serve the Lord through serving men. Adjacent to the tomb, in the museum in honour of the Saint of the Destitute, amidst the handwritten pages displayed from her diary notes, scraps from notebooks and papers, I was struck by a phrase where Mother had written on her ‘calling within the calling’; it completely threw me off my perspective of ‘calling.’
I had understood the term ‘calling’ or vocation (from Latin vocatio, meaning ‘a call, summons’) as an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained, or qualified. It is a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.
We often confuse ‘finding our inner calling’ with becoming rich and famous, finding love or the ideal partner and leading a fulfilling life – in that order. In our search for a true calling (read as ‘success’) we listened with rapt attention to Steve Jobs exhorting us not to let the noise of others’ opinions drown out our own inner voice and to have the courage to follow our heart and intuition; or to the myriad success mantras of accomplished and inspiring self-made people, interpreting them as ‘true calling’ and the way to happiness. And almost always, we promised ourselves that we will follow our passion- later!
Once we are fortunate enough to chance upon a passion, we decide it to be our life’s inner calling and settle for it, the smug complacency driving us full-on in the break-neck initial years, chugging along in our midlife crises and pulling us through the limping final lap, like the journey of Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress to receive the ‘deserving’ reward, but always clutching onto the Holy Grail of that single ‘calling.’
Mother Teresa experienced a calling within her calling, which absolutely changed the world for her and, ultimately changed the world for us too. She realized that when you are ready to leave your comfort zone, when you start to live consciously, when you can listen to the silence beneath the noises around and voices within; then, you will be able to redesign your life’s purpose, renewing it one day at a time.
A calling is not a stagnated, single, Big, once-in-a life time affair; rather it is the ultimate priorities in your daily decisions which drive your dreams and steer your life, where you trust your dreams and aspirations more than you trust your fears. It is the small steps taken in the right direction, a nano-mile a day but always forward, creating momentum, and thereby, unanticipated opportunities. Your life may not go according to your plan and you may go off track; well, then burn your plans, allow yourself to change your mind and start anew; because, the plans and the path were imaginary anyway.
So, your inner calling is your choice, and not from an external agency, without you having any active part in it. It is not a call you stumble upon in the beginning of your youth or career and carry on steadily till the very end. Rather, it is an answer you give to your everyday life, as a child, youth, adult or even as a person on the verge of death. It is the call that ordinary people get in their daily lives, who answer in extraordinary ways, with persistence; it is an ongoing process. We mature and grow each moment of our lives, so what we do today matters.
Our inner calling should only serve this purpose: how much love and light are we bringing into this world? The Saint of Calcutta was driven by her motto ‘it is not what we do, but how much love we put into it,’ that fulfils our calling.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray” (Rumi).