Distinguishing Between A Dream And A Calling

Amidst a debate on how Christians should view the suburbs, Dreher drops an insight about living a meaningful life in ways you never romanticized about:

For a certain kind of Christian — people like me, to be blunt — the idea of living an “ordinary” life (= the life of a middle-class suburbanite) seems unattractive, at least on the surface. That could well be a sign that this is precisely the kind of life that we need for our own salvation. I read a story once about a young Orthodox man who went to a priest or an elder, I forget which, expressing a desire to be a monk. The priest apparently sensed that the young man wanted not the hard part of the monastic life, but rather was attracted by a romanticized view of monasticism. He told the young man to try his vocation by renting an apartment in a poor part of town, and try living among the poor as one of them. Pray, fast, do good works, and see how well you do. If, after a year or two of that, you find that you’re still interested in the monastic life, come back and see me.

I think there’s a lot of practical wisdom in that. I once heard of this Christian couple who were convinced they had a ministry to people working in a glamorous and exciting professional field. I didn’t know them personally, so maybe they did. But it seemed more plausible to me that they wanted to live a particularly stimulating and exotic lifestyle, but could only justify it to themselves by clothing it in a sense of mission. Hey, God needs His people in those circles too! But it’s well worth considering whether or not we’re really called to a certain life, and to a certain place, or whether we’re using God and the cause of mission to justify our preferences.