Sometimes you can find inspiration for prayer in surprising places.
Parade magazine is a small publication that’s inserted into many Sunday newspapers. Recently, they profiled Hugh Jackman, the Australian actor famous for his signature role as Wolverine in the “X-Men” movie series, who made some surprising comments about faith and vocation.
Jackman’s mom deserted the family when he was 8, and he admits to working through a lot of anger. He seems to have emerged whole and healthy, with a sound marriage and a strong sense of self.
Raised a Christian, he retains a deep sense of spirituality. He says he reminds himself before each film that his kids are going to watch. I hope that’s true, and I wish more Hollywood actors had that attitude.
As a college student, he discovered that acting, especially on stage, brought him peace and deep happiness.
Jackman is quoted in a recent edition of Parade: “In ‘Chariots of Fire,’ the runner Eric Liddell says, ‘When I run I feel [God’s] pleasure.’ And I feel that pleasure when I act. … When I go on stage … I pause and dedicate the performance to God, in the sense of ‘Allow me to surrender.'”
How many of us can describe our vocation in the way Liddell or Jackman describe theirs? How many of us do what we love to the extent that we can feel God’s enjoyment? I began my career as a classroom teacher, and I can remember times when I realized I had started a fire of interest and discernment in a student’s heart.
And as a writer, when I finish writing something that I truly think is good, I experience gladness.
But did I feel God’s pleasure in those moments? We seek God’s approval, we attribute our success to God’s help. But do I imagine the work I do as something in which God takes delight? Do I surrender my work to God and let God be an active partner in it?
Sometimes, we do our work or we volunteer with a heavy sense of burden or obligation or resentment. Do I sense God’s pleasure in that? If not, perhaps we need to pray over what we’re doing and be open to choosing a new path. Maybe we’re doing the wrong thing. Or perhaps we’re doing the right thing, but with the wrong attitude.
Frederick Buechner, an American theologian, said, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
Perhaps he might have added that our deep gladness is a sign of divine enjoyment as well.
We’ve all heard stories of people who forsake great-paying careers for some artistic or charitable endeavor that barely feeds the body but nourishes the soul. It takes courage to make big changes, or sometimes even little ones, but it would be worth it to hear God laughing.
Some of us are beyond the age when we’re making significant vocational or career choices. But each of us wakes up each morning to serve God. Each day, we have plenty of decisions to make about how to use our time and what will make us feel creative and good at the end of the day.
Do we spend our workday with our eye on the clock? Do our volunteer activities both help the community as well as contribute to our happiness and growth? Or do we agree to them because “somebody has to do it”?
God is as near to us as our laughter and our tears, and if we listen to each, they provide for us a lesson in God’s will.