You know those people that once you’ve met them, your life is forever changed…
Doc was one for me.
I am still reeling from his sudden death on Friday. Doc was not just a professor, he was also a pastor, mentor and friend.
He changed the trajectory of literally THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of lives—including my own.
As his “office aid” in the Campus Ministry office, I would try to clean his desk, which was a futile undertaking. There were scads of books and piles of papers in that small office—on bookshelves, on his desk, stacked on the floor. Everywhere.
People would tell me, “there’s no use keeping this desk clean,” but I would still try.
If I was earning work-study money, I thought, then I better be working.
But Doc thought differently. Work didn’t necessarily have to be hard. For Doc, work was using your gifts in service to others. My ‘job’ was to discover my gifts.
My equation for work:
EFFORT + TIME-CONSUMING + HARD + MAKES MONEY = WORK
YOUR GIFTS + YOUR DESIRES + SERVICE TO THE WORLD = YOUR SWEET SPOT
So he would tell me to just talk to people that came into the office. That my gift was connecting—to forget about the desk.
And I would. I LOVED talking so I’d talk to everyone that came into that office. I’d ask questions. I’d talk about professors, fraternity formals, and bonfires.
And I’d listen. Someone’s parents were divorcing, roommates were fighting, or a class had to be dropped.
What Doc asked of me never felt like work—so I never valued it.
This is easy. This isn’t work. I believed I needed to ‘earn’ the right to be valuable. Just being Shelley wasn’t enough. And if I’m honest, I still struggle with this.
Maybe that’s the thing with our calling. Maybe to find our true calling we have to let our ego have its way for a while.
Ego has to believe that it’s working hard in order to legitimize our existence. Ego has to feel scrappy and resourceful and ‘add value.’
Ego does the majority of the heavy lifting early in our lives but at some point it will tire out—making way for something less manufactured, more authentic.
And perhaps our calling comes more easily; therefore it feels lazy.
Your calling is calm enough to just sit back and wait. It’s just waiting for you to discover it. No pressure. Nothing to do here except find it and be ready to move where it leads.
Calling is the true self that shows up after all the hard work is done. Calling is reflected in the constant yearnings and ‘leanings’ in your life. It’s the stuff you can’t NOT do.
For me, it was connecting with people through listening and empathizing. I needed someone like Doc to help me see that.
I imagine there are characters in your life, too, who are showing you something about yourself and the work you’re called to do.
Long before I became a therapist, I was talking and listening to others. I believe Doc noticed it, too. Much about my calling—unbeknownst to me—was discovered in the basement of a chapel. For that and many other reasons, I’m forever thankful for this man.
You are loved, Doc, and already deeply missed.