.. Listening for the call
by Dr. Roger Drake
Over the years, the word “vocation” has nearly become synonymous with “occupation.” This article speaks to vocation in its true meaning — an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained or qualified. At faith-based institutions, the notion of “specially drawn” has a particularly Christian connotation.
Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” The fortunate coming together of a student’s interest with an opportunity for service may be the highest purpose of faith-based education. God is at work on the faith-based campus; students are hearing and heeding the call.
As freshmen, many students arrive on campus with a burning desire to make a difference in the world. In ever increasing numbers, students are interested in spiritual life, environmental sustainability, civic engagement, and other activities in which they can put service above self. In many cases, these students attribute being “specially drawn” to a spiritual calling. In other cases, students merely feel that they “belong” in a particular field or activity. In both cases, the faith-based institution is a great place for students to be drawn into a life of service and the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
On today’s college campus, there is a great deal of noise, or put a different way, a great deal of distractions and detours along a student’s path to success. The faith-based institution promotes the opportunity for reflection — the opportunity to sit quietly and listen for the call. While not all students are called to the ministry, it is the institution’s hope that every student will find the calling for which they are specially drawn, or for which they are uniquely suited, trained or qualified. Regardless of their religious beliefs, all students have to find a way to cut through the noise if they are to hear the call or find where they “belong.” The faith-based institution is particularly adept at offering students the opportunity to listen.
I am reminded of the story about a little girl that knelt at the prayer rail during Sunday service. An elder knelt beside her and asked, “Would you like for me to pray with you?” The little girl said, “No thank you.” A few minutes later the pastor knelt beside her and asked, “Can I pray with you?” Again, she politely said, “No thank you.” Taken aback, the pastor asked her, “Then why are you here?” She responded, “Sometimes, I just like to listen.”
As Christians, we often need to listen. As Christian leaders, it is incumbent upon us to provide young people with an opportunity to cut through the noise. It is important that we do all that we can to allow students every opportunity to find a deeper relationship with God as revealed through Jesus Christ. Faith-based colleges are places where young people can listen. At our Christian colleges, students can be called to that place where their deep gladness and world’s deep hunger meet.
Roger Drake is president of Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri