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Can what you find beautiful give you clues to your life calling?

Finding your calling: Part Two

This is part of a series of blog posts about finding your calling, based on podcast episodes. If you're interested in this, you might like to listen to the podcast episode here.

We are all drawn to things that we find beautiful. That is what makes it a good lens through which to look at purpose and calling.

Modern life has made us a bit suspicious of the idea of beauty because of the way that connects with media and fashion and pressure to try and attain an outward ideal of beauty.

It is not just the worlds of celebrity and fashion, and our concerns about the objectification of women that has made us suspicious of beauty. In our religious life, too, over the last few hundred years, there has been a suspicion of things that are beautiful. During the protestant reformation some great works of art in some beautiful churches were destroyed because of a desire to remove outward displays of beauty that were seen as being inappropriate.

That is tragic because there is something about beauty that connects to something very very deep and ancient within us. We are creatures who respond to beauty. It touches us deeply.

So what do we mean by beauty? It is not simply the outward appearance of something. There are all sorts of things that can be beautiful. You will know people who are beautiful because of their character. You will have listened to conversations that are beautiful just because of the graciousness that there is between the people involved.

This is relevant to calling because there are things that you find beautiful because they connect with something about who you are. What you find beautiful is unique to you. There is nothing shallow about being attracted to something that is beautiful. It is how we are wired, it is how we are made. That is why it is such a helpful lens through which to think about life purpose. Rumi said:

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

So if you’re wondering about your calling, it’s worth beginning to notice what is it that you find beautiful. Look out for those moments when the beauty you encounter touches your soul. When you see that happening, it will be connecting with something deep about who you are, and will be giving you some clues about what things you are drawn towards and that gives you an idea of what your here for, what your purpose is, what you are called to create within the world.

To give a personal example that links into to my own life calling, one of the things that I always find beautiful is seeing people who are doing something that they are really good at, and that they enjoy doing and seeing how that awakes a passion within them.

30 years ago, I trained to be a speech and language therapist. I can still remember watching one our lecturers doing a speech and language assessment of a young girl. Seeing the way she was able to engage the child and her mother, ask insightful questions, and notice all kinds of things that were going on for this young girl in terms of her speech and language, and make notes of the whole thing at the same time, and was then able to talk to us about it afterwards. And I just found the whole thing really beautiful.

On a similar note I really love conversations with people who are passionate about what they do. Conversations like that I can remember for years. I remember a conversation I had at event for Church leaders, over ten years ago now, with the woman who was doing the catering. She talked about how much she loved cooking for people, how much she loved hosting them, and creating nice meals for people. She said, “it is so wonderful doing this job. I get to feed the people of God”, and that struck me as really beautiful.

So in both of those examples you will notice that something that I find beautiful connects with something that I do, that I sense I am called to do.

Another personal example is that I love questions. When I read the gospels one of the things that I find really beautiful is the way Jesus asks people questions. I love the respect that there is in questions, that enable people to think and discover a new awareness. I find watching people who are good at listening really beautiful. It inspires me, and it touches something deep within me.

So those are just a couple of examples of things that I find beautiful, that definitely link with what my purpose is in life, and I could give you many other examples of different things that link to who I am and what I am called to do. If you begin noticing those moments when you are touched by the beauty of something, that may well give you some clues about your calling. If you already know what your calling is, then noticing what you find beautiful can be a lovely reminder of it.

Sometimes our calling is not about doing things that are beautiful, but it is about sorting out things that are ugly - where there is brokenness and wounded-ness. Perhaps you have a real heart connection with some pain in the world, perhaps it might be something to do with the environment or there is an injustice in the world that you want to see righted.

Beauty can guide us here too.

John O’Donohue says

when we address difficulty in terms of the call to beauty new invitations come alive

Rather than simply looking at the pain that surrounds us, and the thing that we are angry about we can ask the question:

What is the beauty I would like to see instead?

Addressing difficulty in terms to a call to beauty can open up new vistas, and new ways of thinking about something. The beauty to which you are called in a particular situation will be reflective of who you are, the contribution that fits with who you are.

Hopefully there have been some insights in this article that are useful to you. For most of us, understanding our life purpose is a matter of putting together a number of different jigsaw pieces, so if this jigsaw piece is helpful to you then use it, and if it is not, there will be other jigsaw pieces that are more helpful to you.

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