Two years ago, I took a learning test as part of a graduate program in nutritional science I was pursuing. It gave me some helpful insight into why I can’t seem to quit writing. Several days ago, a blog post on the Internet gave me some insight into why I may not in fact be a failure when I’ve had to quit so many things, or they’ve had to quit me.
For the last fifteen years, I have moved through several vocational cycles of full time employment, consulting gigs and graduate school, all while trying to keep the main things- following Jesus, loving my husband and my kids-the main things. Keeping them front and center have been why I’ve both taken job opportunities, and let them go, taken up graduate school, and let that go, due to needing to go back to work to help take care of my family. Rinse, repeat.
Throughout each of these seasons, I’ve also cycled in and out of the blogosphere. At first I was just a committed commenter, until a challenge about moving out of the ministry of commenting and into the ministry of writing had me setting up my own blog and even thinking of writing a book.
But then parenting, or working, or Jesus. Rinse, repeat.
The unifying thread through all of my different endeavors over the last fifteen years has been my abilities as a writer and speaker. It’s because I’m so decidedly ungifted at things other women are – house decorating, craft making, visual arts, anything involving bodily movement – that I’ve grown more comfortable acknowledging this one gift – I’m pretty good with the words.
The learning test I took two years ago taught me why. While some people learn by reading and others by listening, I learn by talking. I’m one of those annoying people who always has a question in a classroom, or a comment in a meeting. Only after taking the test did I have a positive motive for that behavior, in addition all the negative ones that had caused me to dial myself back whenever I was self-aware enough about it. I don’t just talk because there are things I need to say. I talk, and write, because there things I need to learn. And talking and writing about them is how I do that.
The challenge that I’ve been wrestling through in the last several years is that, as I pursue the various vocations God puts in front of me, the list of things I’m compelled to learn, just keeps getting longer. (At the moment it includes how tastebuds work, if the mold in cheese comes from one specific bacteria or different kinds, what leading like a woman looks like, the battle between deus ex machina and imago dei for the soul of Silicon Valley, a theological argument against the selfie, the origins of the death of the Republican Party, and whether there will ever be a soap opera period drama as perfect as Downton Abbey. Yes, I have wondered if I’m a little crazy.) So great has the desire grown that occasionally I’ve taken to various friends’ blogs or websites to wrestle through something and put it out into the world as an invitation to others to wrestle along with me.
It wasn’t until I read this brain-bending proposition by Joe Carter last week that I experienced, not so much a shift in my thinking about my gifts and vocations, and what on earth God might want me to do with them all, so much as a tremendous settling. In his article, Joe describes the journey God took him on (which included a short-lived trip down graduate school lane just like me, God bless ‘im) to help him embrace a calling as a generalist – someone whose “interest, aptitudes, and skills are applied to a variety of different fields.” I’m not comfortable with his argument that using the gifts of a generalist is akin to performance art (I’m picturing Joe as a mime and it’s more than a little disturbing). I’d argue that generalists are more like technicians – they use a variety of rhetorical tools and techniques to connect complex intellectual or spiritual concepts to the ordinary spheres of life in a way that reveals their God-glorifying purpose.
And when I say “they” I really mean “we”. As in, that’s what I’m growing to understand myself to be as well.
So this is the place where I’m going to be that. I’m going to be a generalist – using the rhetorical tools of writing and thinking to wrestle through the long list of things I need to learn about to try and uncover their God-glorifying purpose.
You’re invite to think through them with me.
Let’s see what happens.