I love watching my boys play. It is endlessly entertaining and also instructive. They so easily enter into whatever role their play demands. One moment it is a super-hero, the next a cowboy, then a ninja and so on. A story develops throughout each moment and the boys are totally immersed in that story and completely committed to it in that moment. It seems random if one isn’t really paying attention, but the play is full of purpose. Within the imagination is the learning of an incredible range of morality, value and meaning. The common themes include heroism, justice, loyalty and teamwork. They re-enact these themes over and over, rehearsing them in different ways so that the framework gets firmly established. These stories become written into the fabric of who they are and who they want to become. It is life-giving for them. At this point in their growth, it is as important as they air they breathe and the food they eat.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of squabbles over toys and who’s in charge of what. But that’s just part of the picture. It is merely filling out the details of the story. And the story keeps going.
So what does this have to do with vocation? Everything.
Vocation means calling. It means living out the purpose for which you were created. It means hearing God’s voice and acting on it. Most of all, vocation is finding your place in the biggest Story of all. That Story is the the Story of God’s redemption of fallen humanity in Christ. It is the Story of the liberation of creation. Heroism, justice, loyalty and teamwork are all needed in this Story. Where can one learn these virtues? One place is the great stories, the types of stories that children want to re-enact in their imaginations and in their play. And just maybe, the more fuel and space we give our children to do just that the more they will be open to hearing the call of God to take their place in the Greatest Story of all.
One more thing. I’m not a little boy anymore (although I do often act like one). But what if one of the best ways for me to open up my heart and mind to hear God’s call is to engage those same imaginative muscles that adults all too often let atrophy while we take care of “more important things”. Do you think I can learn something from my boys? I certainly hope so.