A huge furore erupted in the wake of the Second Test Match against India at the SCG early in the new year. Accusations were flying about who was playing ‘according to the spirit’ of the game, with strong suggestions that Australia were being too focussed on winning and not overly concerned about the manner by which it was achieved. As the third test unfolded we found Australians apologising for their appeals, timid in their approach, and ultimately losing a well-fought test match. In many senses the debate and its aftermath epitomises something of Australian ambivalence regarding its identity, and underlined the importance of understanding our vocation.
Without wanting to be seen to make judgments about the appropriateness or otherwise of the Australians’ behaviour, as a distant observer it was evident that the Australian team struggled to own its identity and its relationship with its combatant at the same time. The Australian image is rooted deeply in the digger of the ANZAC: never beaten, bunkered down, and prepared to give all in service of country and purpose. Yet when the desired result was achieved, and the brouhaha erupted, in the aftermath we were confronted with a semi-apologetic team which, robbed of its mojo, finding difficulty in mustering the same grit out of which so many victories on different stages have been wrought. Unable to be themselves, they were somehow diminished and conquered.
When we are unsure of our vocation – that deep sense of understanding what it is that God is calling us to be and to do – we are much more vulnerable to questions and attacks by others. Vocation brings a conviction about both direction and identity, knowing that our life choices and actions are born within the heart of God – something which not only allows us to stand in the face of criticism and accusation by others, but to continue amidst the uncertainties and questions which invariably unfold in life.
When monk and erstwhile 16th century church reformer Martin Luther was called before the church hierarchies in relation to his writings, he could only respond with the words “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Although Luther was clearly caught off-guard by many of the implications and responses to his writings, he would not divert from his sense of calling. Luther never intended to be the leader of a massive reform movement – it simply flowed from the exercise of his vocation.
To find and own our vocation is a key step in finding our identity, and living with many of the vagaries of life. This “calling” offers us a sense of place in the purposes of God in creation.
January 27, 2008