The Myth of Greatness

Scott Peck was a psychiatrist and spiritual director for many years. I’ve enjoyed his readings immensely. I periodically struggle with my vocation–my sense of calling and purpose in this world. On my best days, I have a sense that I have a gift to listen, care, and be a healing presence to others. On my worst days, I beat myself feeling like I should be doing more.

Growing up, we were constantly told at church that God had “destiny and greatness” for us, that we would do great things for the Lord. I grew up believing that…until a few days ago. I was working through an issue and realized that I didn’t have the experience to tackle it. I was so bummed and I just happened to fall on this section of Peck’s words:

So God’s unique vocation for each of us invariably calls us to personal success, but not necessarily success in the world’s stereotypical terms or means of measurement. Nonetheless, upon occasion, God does call us to positions the world also calls great. One of my relatives, distant family legend goes, had a clear calling to be a drummer boy in the Civil War—at the same time that Abraham Lincoln had what seems to me to have been a true vocation to both the presidency and to greatness. So I think there is a distinction to be made between “humble” and “grand” vocations. As I suppose fits the needs of society, most men and women have humble vocations. I do not want to imply that such humble vocations are less in God’s eye than grander ones.

Peck, M. Scott. A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered (pp. 67-68). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I’m not called to a grand vocation. But I grew up in a church culture that elevated grand vocations.

  • Do great things for the Lord.
  • Reach the Nations.
  • Be a world changer.
  • God has a great destiny and purpose for your life.
  • Impact. Influence.

I don’t think this is relegated to my pentecostal, charismatic upbringing. Peck had clients across the board.

I’m in my forties and I’m exhausted with that mentality. I’m also heartbroken. The best work I’ve done is invisible, unknown, and confidential. And even saying the phrase, “I’ve done” is a stretch. As a Christian, I believe the Holy Spirit has animated my life, transformed over a long period of time, so that I am influenced by the Spirit’s moving and filling. Like 12-stepper, I admit that I am powerless and need a Higher Power.

Like I said, I’m in my forties and there are some things I’m just tired of. I wanted to have a grand vocation. I’ve been working so hard, just waiting for my break, trying to prepare myself. Yet, I’ve experienced burnout, disappointment, and a loss of motivation because of this form of “grand” thinking.

I woke up today grateful for the gifts, life, and people I serve and am connected to. I’m more content today with my “humble” vocation. And I see that as a grand opportunity. I get to serve employees, go to school, and create music. Maybe not at a grand scale of ministry like others. But the folks I serve are made in God’s image. The school I attend helps me to be a better listener and caregiver. And I have a few open doors to do music projects with great friends.

I’ll take this as part of my healing journey. I want to reclaim my belovedness and live out of the core tenets of my faith: Love God, love others as myself, seek justice, do mercy, and be a person that is about shalom (a person and a systems total well-being).

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