In 2012, the Minnesota TMJ specialist went to look at my x-rays leaving me in the examination room with three young women, all dental school graduates now studying TMJ disorders. I broke the awkward silence by asking how they came to be specializing in jaw issues.
One replied, “I don’t like general dentistry so I think this will be better. I don’t enjoy looking in people’s mouths.”
Had my jaw been able to drop, it would have. “You don’t like looking in people’s mouths? How did you ever find your way into dental school?”
“It’s what my parents want me to do. I am too afraid to disappoint them.”
All those years of education resulting in a career chosen out of fear feels tragic to me.
Obviously I don’t know much of the other circumstances surrounding that young woman’s decision but the encounter has stuck with me and causes me to ask what fears I have that might be preventing me from embracing my vocation.
Smith says, “At this point, our level of honesty makes all the difference – honesty with ourselves, honesty about what we are feeling, thinking and wanting….we never will come to full purity of motive, in this life. But we can be diligent about what we are thinking and feeling, and it is never a waste of time to systematically review the hard questions that enable us to know if our peace comes from God.”
It is interesting to me – although not all together surprising – that the chapter on discerning vocation is summed up in this way. Take an inventory of ourselves and our circumstances, pay attention to thoughts and feelings (particularly noting fears and anger) and then in peace, take one small step. I appreciate Smith’s perspective that the “distant future does not need to be a burden to us…but neither does the distant past need to be a burden.”
I have adopted a line from this book as my prayer regarding vocation and I trust that “…we can embrace the present moment with faith, hope and love, and as God enables us, we can act in such a manner that we seize this opportunity of the joy that is set before us.”
With love and gratitude,
Excerpts this month are from The Voice of Jesus by Gordon Smith.
In The Midst