Vocation: Is it interesting or boring?
Back in January, I was talking to a friend, and as we were catching up on life she told me about a movie that she had recently seen. That movie was Little Women. It was the latest in a long line of cinematic retellings of the book first written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868. I must admit, it took me a while to finally get around to watching it. I grew up as the youngest of four boys, so a movie about a household of four sisters wasn’t exactly something I thought I would be interested in watching. Boy, was I wrong! After about a month of chewing on it, and discussing it with friends, I have some things to say and praises to sing.
A Quick Recap
For those of you who have not seen the movie: Do not walk, RUN! (I hear the book is even better, so if you find yourself with ample time on your hands give it a read as well.) Spiritual insights aside, this movie is simply beautiful. From the acting, to the costumes, to the very human story it tells, it is a wonderful window into family life, love, and sacrifice that both women and men can gleen a lot from. The movie follows the lives of the four March sisters over the course of several years, jumping back and forth in time throughout the story. Of the four sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy), we spend the most time with Jo, played by Saoirse Ronan. She has a fiery personality, and a profound love for her family. We, the audience, can tell that she loves her sisters very much, and that she wants to help them in any way she can, even if she doesn’t know how or her ego gets in the way. It’s this passion that comes into play in the particular scene that I would like to look at.
A Sisterly Chat
About halfway through the film, we see a flashback of Meg’s wedding day. She and Jo are talking alone upstairs before the ceremony, preparing for the momentous occasion that is just moments away. In a sort of last ditch effort to keep her life the same and keep her sister by her side, Jo tells Meg to forget the wedding and run away to live a life of adventure and fun with her instead. She can’t stand the thought of not having Meg around anymore. More than that, she can’t fathom the life that her sister has chosen for herself. Meg, played by Emma Watson, patiently listens to her sister with such compassion and confidence that it is hard not to be struck by her response. Here is their exchange:
MEG: I want to get married.
MEG: Because I love him.
JO: You will be bored of him in two years and we will be interesting forever!
MEG: Just because my dreams are different than yours doesn’t mean they’re unimportant…
I want a home and a family and I’m willing to work and struggle, but I want to do it with John.
Again, if you haven’t seen this movie, please do yourself a favor and go watch it. I have watched and rewatched this scene countless times since I first saw it, and it gets me every time. Why? Because it is a masterclass in acting? Sure. Because the writing is poetic and beautiful? Yeah. But more than that, I think it is because it shines a glaring light on the way so many of us, myself included, can look at the idea of a vocation.
An “Interesting” Vocation
Too many of us are, or have been, Jo March. We think to ourselves, like Jo, “Whatever God is calling me to (marriage, priesthood, religious life, etc) will always be ‘interesting’ and an adventure because God wants me to be happy and to have a full life!” God, indeed, does want both of those things. It just looks a lot different than we expect much of the time. If we only want to “live our best life”, then room for an other in our lives quickly starts to disappear. Is it really any wonder why so many of us struggle with and fear commitment? If we are constantly self seeking and trying to be interesting at all times, then of course the other would be seen as a threat or infringement upon our happiness and adventure. And if we look at it like Jo, it will take a lot less than two years before we are bored.
Friends, every vocation is, in reality, quite ordinary. Yes, there are times of great joy and moments of tremendous sorrow. But, a vocation is for life. If we think back on our lives thus far, most of that time is ordinary and seemingly boring. It feels irrelevant and pointless. Yet, it is so much more. We need to stop thinking of the ordinary times of life as “unimportant”, and start to look at it, like Meg, as time to work and struggle with another in love. That other may be our spouse, our children, fellow religious, our parishioners, or other priests.
Our vocation is a constant yes to the other. It is the laying down of one’s life in love for and with the other in the ordinary each day. It is a love rooted in Christ Jesus because it is the same love He gave for His other, the Church. And we live our vocations within the Church, the Body of Christ, so our ultimate other who we give our life to is Jesus. That, brothers and sisters, takes an extraordinary kind of love. This love is blessed by Christ as He works and struggles right alongside us. And as we give ourselves in and to that love we become the Other, Jesus, who is the very fullness of human life. Does that sound boring to you?