praise is calling, a letter to preston

Do y’all remember when Preston and I were writing all those letters last year, Tuesdays and Thursdays, writing out this ramble through faith and life and coffee late at night and Gossip Girl and all the rest? And how, those letters, they were the beginning of something wondrous? We are beginning again, new and the same, our selves familiar and not. This is the first of the new letters – but you can read Preston’s last one, from last October, here. (And just so you know, he is unlike anyone I have met before. In all those amazing ways that words fail to capture. I’m amazed and awed and all the rest by him)

Dear Preston,

“You know what I think? I think maybe I’m finding it. You know, the THING.” I cradle the phone lovingly, just the way I used to when she and I would talk the miles between New York and Massachusetts in our college years. I remember how we didn’t know who we even might want to begin to be, how then, everything was new and she taught me to joy in that, rather than to fear. I remember how the not knowing used to send me running for some comfort somewhere, for books or academic sounding research projects, but she said I had a calling different than that – something about writing, about telling stories.

“I think I’m finding it.”

Do you remember me telling you about this conversation? Did I tell you about it? Sometimes, I think you and I have talked about everything, but I’m back to wondering if I can put words to what is going on in my heart and mind. I’m thinking about this again, this morning, in the long stretch of the day and the longer stretch of the summer, thinking about calling, thinking about what I’m hungry for.

We use the word vocation all the time. Is it because we almost never know the real word? What do you call it – the hunger that somehow feeds you? What do you call it – the thing you must do, as dear Rilke would say, the thing that calls forth from inside you and outside you and that will not relent? What do you call it – the way of being?

What I’m after, anyway, is a way of being. What I am longing for, anyway, is to wander without being lost, to ramble with a pattern, to… something. I can’t quite figure out what.

The words trip their way out of my mouth, always a little ahead of my thoughts – “I’m called to praise.”

But we all are, aren’t we?

What would be special or different about that calling?

Doesn’t God have a more unique purpose than that? (the questions begin, a slight trembling of my bright horizon line, and I blink a few times as I continue to pace the pathways of the old, familiar campus)

We live in a difficult time to talk about calling  – the emphasis has landed so heavily on our uniqueness, on our gifting, on how God has specifically called each of us to each particular, discreet, place and time and conversation, that we have forgotten how much of our calling is universal, even, dare I name it, ordinary. We spend time seeking the very thing only we can do, imagining that calling must be there, where deep gladness and deep hunger meet (I kept the napkin with that Buechner quote from a three years ago) but also where they meet and I am unique there, a pioneer.

“I’m called to praise.”

That’s what I can’t shake off. I think about the way that words can sing out from one person to another, can Name (you know, like Meg?) things as real, can breathe love. I think about how maybe my life can be flamed with praise. How maybe I can sing in the kitchen to children in the future that we should praise the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. I think about the world, lit by praise, the hard work of perceiving what is true so that it can be mirrored and imagined and understood.

I don’t know what it holds, exactly, but you know me with things like this – I just can’t get over it. The calling to praise. Perhaps now I am just to listen closer. To the world, to people – and maybe listening is where we can begin.

Love, always,
hilary

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10 thoughts on “praise is calling, a letter to preston

  1. oh yes, Hil. love this. I have a hard time explaining what you have so brilliantly worded here–and it was a tumbling road to get here, with no small thanks to a single chapter in BBT’s Altar in the World (wait. have you read it?).

    continuously arriving to this understanding of vocation/calling–about how it is unique and not unique, like how God can be both expansive and particular– gives me a great deal of peace as well as an urgency, because it can start right. now.

    glad you guys are bringing these letters back– I have missed them!

    • yes, absolutely – a tumbling road is right – and I love that idea and that image. I haven’t read the book, but it is clearly something that I should read. so glad you’re reading. and can’t wait to meet you soon.

  2. Oh Hilary, I love your writing. This being caught between the unique and the universal, it’s something I can identify with. And yet what a calling you have heard! What a release that can be into a life unimaginable! (I almost got jealous until I remembered some callings are all mine too…)

    • thank you, friend. I’m so glad to have you over here. and yes, yes, yes – we are caught between unique and universal, and these callings are yours too. how good it is to share them.

  3. ah Meg, and the give of Naming…

    your words are good Hilary.
    they make me think of a choir.
    all are called to the same purpose,
    yet each voice its own.
    and each voice necessary.

    Thanks!

  4. Beautiful reflection, Hilary. I agree that at times we focus on our unique, individual calls at the expense of the universal. But it is also true that our universal call only takes shape when each individual responds in his or her own unique way. Gerard Manley Hopkins has said it far better than I ever could:

    AS KINGFISHERS CATCH FIRE

    As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
    As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
    Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
    Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
    Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

    I say móre: the just man justices;
    Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
    Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
    Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

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