Last Friday, between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM, our land line rang twenty-six times. Twenty-six. That’s 104 rings and twenty-six replays of the computerized voice on our answering machine asking the caller to leave a message. Sometimes there was a twenty minute lull between calls. Sometimes the next one would come in on the heels of the dial tone pealing through the speaker, announcing the disconnection of the last.
My mood during this eight hour bombardment ranged from annoyance to disbelief to amazement at the persistence. Certainly our number had been targeted by telemarketing robocalls in the past, but never to this extent. And despite my rising curiosity as to how long it would continue, it became a test of wills. The part of me that wanted to go on ignoring them, too busy to waste time on obvious scammers, versus my focused writer side who just wanted to make the interruptions stop.
I caved on the twentieth call, but when I picked up the phone, it wasn’t what I expected. There was no robotic recording informing me of the lower interest rates available to me. There wasn’t a bogus and generic claim about the IRS or the state of my computer warranty. There wasn’t a falsely cheery human calling with the unbelievable news that I’d somehow won a trip for which I hadn’t even registered. There was just nothing. Nothing but complete and utter silence.
In the days that followed, I spent a lot of time thinking about those calls. Perhaps it was the writer in me, as inclined to philosophy as she is to poetry. Or maybe it was a deeply embedded curiosity that followed me from childhood. Whatever it was, my mind drew an immediate parallel between those phone calls and my life’s calling.
If the idea of purpose is a struggle for you, let me assure you, it is for me too. Not the uncertainty of whether or not I have purpose, because I wholeheartedly believe that I do, that we all do. But the notion that following it requires a boat-load (or you might say, an ark-load) of faith. With thirteen years of Catholic education under my belt, religion has always been a part of my life. But faith? Faith is an entirely different story.
Faith requires sitting blindfolded in the passenger seat when you’d rather be behind the wheel with a map and a detailed itinerary. Faith requires taking the next step in the journey before the path beneath your feet is fully visible. Faith requires waiting for directions even when you think you know the way.
Full disclosure: I am terrible at all of these things.
I want that control. I want God’s will to align with mine rather than the other way around. I want a GPS-guided navigation system that displays the next three turns ahead of my current location. I want tangible answers to life’s intangible questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? Am I on the right road?
The problem is when I really began seeking out those answers, when I began to consistently study scripture and pray and pay attention, I wasn’t ready for what came back at me. Like the one phone call I picked up on Friday, the answer wasn’t what I had expected. To be clear, this wasn’t a large-scale, world-changing revelation, but a slight nudge to step out of the mundane to be and do and give just a little something more.
But who wants to do that? Who wants to sacrifice safety for the unknown? Who wants to give up the comfort of complacency? I certainly didn’t. I still don’t. And just like Friday’s calls, I’ve continued to ignore those gut feelings. I’ve served up excuses—I’m too busy, too tired, too focused on what I want to do. I’ve set my jaw, content to stay stuck in my own determination, my own stubbornness, my own fear.
But God hasn’t given up on me. And if this sounds like you, he hasn’t given up on you either. He is as persistent as those telemarketers. He will keep calling and calling and calling. Twenty-six times. A hundred and twenty-six times. However many times it takes to get our attention. Because he wants us to share our gifts, he wants us to open our hearts to love and forgiveness and compassion, he wants us to move and to be moved.
After admitting my own difficulties in this area, it feels hypocritical to offer any advice or words of encouragement, so I will just tell you what I keep telling myself: Start small. Figure out if there is one step you can take today to get closer to doing/being/giving whatever has been placed on your heart to do/be/give and then take it. Answer that one call. Say “Yes!” to that one little thing. You just never know where it might lead.