“With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
– T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
Here’s today’s morning devotion for the senior class. It’s their last day of high school, and though sometimes I feel like I graduated just a year ago, I’ve somehow been teaching them all year and figured I’d better send them out with what little wisdom I have to share.
I’ve decided to take out of context and probably misinterpret some T.S. Eliot to send them on their way. I’m not that far from my own last day of high school, and I still remember the bittersweetness that accompanied each of those lasts. It’s exciting to leave, it’s sad to say goodbye, it’s nerve wracking to head off to college or a job or a gap year not knowing what exactly to expect. What does it really mean to follow a “calling,” that word we’ve been talking to them about for four years now? Luckily, we’ve got a few models.
Luke 9. Jesus befriends some average Joes—fishermen who have been working hard all night. Not much has come of their work, and we can relate. Sometimes all the labor and grind and washing of nets can seem meaningless. Why keep going out night after night, day after day? But Jesus asks them to toss out those nets one more time. And they do. That’s the real miracle. That a group of tired fishermen are willing to indulge the request of this Jewish rabbi. Minutes later, they’re on their knees celebrating his power, and Jesus makes his big request: follow me.
They do it. They just leave all their gear at the docks and go. Talk about life changes. It’s not totally clear to me what made them do it: maybe it was the miraculous all-you-can-eat fish dinner Jesus got for them, or maybe they were just all looking for an adventure. But either way, they up and leave. They follow Jesus’ calling.
T.S. Eliot gets hold of that word, calling, and makes it the beginning of an adventure, too. But what I love about his poem is that the exploring ends with coming back. As a homebody at heart, I love the idea that we go out into this world with a purpose, a calling, something we’re supposed to do. We have “the drawing of this Love” with us, or perhaps, more familiarly, a “cloud of witnesses.” And we go out and do it, whatever that it is. These seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds probably don’t know yet. I don’t even feel like I really know yet. But no matter what it is we’re called to do, we can always come back to where we started. That place is different for each of us. Maybe it’s a city, or a building, or a friendship, or a job, or a hobby. But it’s where we got our start and first heard that voice calling us somewhere.
We’ll be different when we get back, Eliot assures us. Of course we will. That’s the point.