By Bruce G. Epperly
The Super Bowl is seldom seen as a goldmine for theological reflection. But, one phrase leaped out at me in the coverage of this year’s game. Harry Wilson, father of game winning quarterback, Russell Wilson, told his son, “Russ, why not you?” as a reminder that he could do great things and make a difference in the world. Despite his comparatively small stature for a professional football quarterback (5’11”), his father believed that his son Russell could achieve greatness if he trusted his own unique talents rather than listening to the negative pronouncements of others. His sense of calling, instilled by his father’s confidence, enabled Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson to be the second African American quarterback to win the Super Bowl.
As I pondered Harry Wilson’s counsel, I was reminded of the two thousand year old wisdom of Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” This is the heart of vocation. Vocation is always concrete, contextual, collaborative, and creative. This is the moment of encounter with God and God’s vision for our lives and the world. If, in this moment, we say “no” to divine possibility, then who will God invite to say “yes?”
Vocation involves the interplay of our gifts and the needs of the environment. While we may have long-term vocations, it is equally true that each moment has a vocation or an aim toward wholeness and creativity for ourselves and the world. The concreteness of life is the womb of possibility in which God’s vision, our responsiveness, and the world’s situation are intimately and dynamically connected. Moment by moment God calls within the complexities and challenges of daily life.
The counsel “Why not you, Russ?” is addressed in one way or another to each of us, according to the wisdom of process theology. In the spirit of Mordecai’s counsel to reticent Queen Esther, process theology affirms: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 14:4) God presents us with a vision of possibilities appropriate to each moment of experience. There is no one absolute possibility, or divine ideal, but amid the many good possibilities, God’s energy directs us to the beauty, love, justice, and intensity of experience right for this time and place. Our response to divine possibility brings us closer or further from God’s vision for our lives. We are able to experience more or fewer possibilities to nurture our own happiness and the health of our environment.
In this inaugural week of Real Spirituality for Real Life, I invite you to ponder what visions awaken your passions and give you energy. While we may not affirm the strong image of providence articulated in Olympic Winner Eric Liddel’s proclamation, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but God also made me fast. And, when I run I feel God’s pleasure” portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire, we can affirm the movements of a gentle providence that constantly provides possibilities and the energy to achieve them, and then leaves us with the freedom to shape these possibilities. Opening to these possibilities can make all the difference in the world as we seek healing and wholeness for us and our planet.