praise is calling, a letter to preston

by hilarysherratt

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,

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