Archive for August, 2013

The Incredibles and Vocation

My kids have been flitting through some of the Disney Pixar movies.  Cars (2006) has always been a favorite, but The Incredibles (2004) has been making its rounds in our home as of late. Me being me, I can’t help but watch and think: The Incredibles is a great story to demonstrate vocational calling.


IMDB offers a basic plot summary:

Mr. Incredible is a superhero; or he used to be, until a surge of lawsuits against superheroes submitted by the people they’ve saved forced the government to hide them in witness protection programs so they could lead normal, anonymous lives. Now known exclusively by his secret identity, Bob Parr, he lives with his wife Helen, formerly Elastigirl, and their three children Violet, Dash, and Jack Jack. He works as an insurance claims specialist, and he’s fed up with his pushy boss and his immoral profession, but his wife’s worked too hard to build a normal life for her family to abide his nostalgia for heroism. When Mr. Incredible’s offered the chance to play the role of hero again by a mysterious informant, he jumps at the opportunity, but when it turns out to be a trap set by an old nemesis he had a hand in corrupting, the whole family must reveal themselves to save Mr. Incredible and countless innocents. Written by Michael Loughrin

With three kids to care for, Elastigirl embraces her life as Helen Parr.  Her husband Bob, however, is miserable.  He goes through the motions of a job he hates because of his love for his family, but doing so is killing his spirit.

In the movie itself as well as on film review sites like IMDB and Fandango, Mr. Incredible’s passion and desire for heroism is dismissed as nostalgia, reminiscing about the “good ole days.”

It’s so much more than that, though.

Look at Mr. Incredible while he’s suppressing his true self:

incredibles-bob-parr-character

This is a man who is emotionally unsatisfied.  Every ounce of his energy goes into suppressing the burning desires in his heart.  The animators depict the physical toll this has taken in his slumped posture, weight gain, and circles under his eyes.  In his speech, his voice is deflated.  It’s not just that he works for an annoying, immoral boss appropriately voiced by Wallace Shawn.  It’s that he’s not allowed to actually do what he does best: help people.

When he talks about his “glory days,” his eyes light up and the energy returns to his whole being.  After years of sneaking around and finding ways to clandestinely help people, Mr. Incredible responds to a cryptic invitation to secretly resume his superhero ways and fight bad guys.

the incredibles -1-sizedThe change in his whole being is evident: physically, emotionally, mentally, and I’d venture to say even spiritually. Instead of withdrawing into his mancave of memories, Mr. Incredible starts flirting with his wife and being more present to his family.

Plot twists abound, but suffice it to say the “happily ever after” of this Disney flick involves the whole Incredible family living out their vocation as superheros.

Vocational Calling

Calling a person’s job or career a vocation indicates something specific.  Google the definition of vocation and you can see certain words pop out:

vocation definition - Google Search - Google Chrome 882013 30206 PM.bmpThe focus isn’t so much on the job itself as the sense of calling described as a strong feeling of suitability.  While Christian tradition will always insist that a person’s worth, value, and dignity are never limited to the function of his or her job, there is a deeper understanding that our passion, gifts, and talents are at the very core of our being.  This is how God created us; it is who God created us to be.  It is God who gives us this vocational calling.

Following our passions and using our gifts and talents (for good, not evil) gives greater glory to God.  And the rewards of living out one’s vocation abundantly flow to everyone in our lives: spouse, family, friends, co-workers… every person you encounter on your path.

Not doing this–not following one’s vocational calling and suppressing who you are called to be–takes its toll in more ways than one.

Watching The Incredibles is a fun way to visit this dynamic, especially the transformation that happens when a person can (finally) live out their vocation.  But the real challenge–and rewards–come in actually doing it.

Do you know someone who is living out their vocational calling?  Or do you know of a Mr. Incredible in your own life that desperately needs to do so?  What piece of this speaks to where you are with your own vocation?

Advertisements

Vanity of Vanities = First World Problems

So one of the things I love about living in my neighborhood is that we can bike–as a family–to Church, to friends houses, to the pool, to my husband’s work.

IMG_1731

Biking to swim practice

It’s Sunday morning at 9:45am. I’m all excited that we’re actually walking out the door with plenty of time to bike the 1/2 mile and get to the 10 o’clock Mass without rushing.  Everyone has bike helmets on, I’m loading stuff into my basket, and my husband grimly tells me that my front tire has a hole in the tube.  

So we walked.  Quickly.  In the Houston heat and humidity. And got to Mass at 9:59am. Sweaty, but on time.

First World Problems.

The first time I heard the phrase “First World Problems” was on FaceBook, in a meme.

first-world-problems

Except I didn’t know it was a meme.  I read the shallow complaints common to American society and flipped out.  [Me: THESE ARE NOT PROBLEMS!] A couple of FaceBook friends gently explained that it was an expression and what it meant.

First World Problems, also known as “White Whine,” are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.*

A couple of weeks ago, my Mom explained that she heard the phrase for the first time.  It changed things for her: How privileged am I to have THESE problems?

So when I heard the readings today – readings I have heard a gazillion times before – I felt like I was being called out on something.

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property.
This also is vanity and a great misfortune.
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun?
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest.
This also is vanity.

(Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23)

The word vanity translates as “breath” or “vapor,” as in breath of breath or vapor of vapors.  Designating something that lacks substance, in effect, meaning “nothing of nothing-ness.”

First World Problems.

Though I was disappointed that we couldn’t bike to Church–and that I’ll have to buy a new tube to fix the tire–I was fully aware that this wasn’t a real problem.  I take a look at my FaceBook feed… and I see a lot of complaining about things that aren’t really problems.  It’s so easy to complain.  Too easy.  And all too often, I join in the misery.

Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

I read the book A Complaint Free World a while ago… I love the theory (complaining less; appreciating more).  I also recently lost a dear friend to cancer… there’s nothing quite like watching your friend’s newly widowed husband having to care for three kids under the age of nine to put things in perspective for you.

There’s a lot of things that we expend our time, energy, money, and effort worrying about that really don’t matter.

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2

Throughout Scripture, Jesus calls us to conversion.  The Greek word is metanoia.  A change in our whole being; a transformation grounded in repentance.  Metanoia is less about rejecting earthly things and more about recognizing what really matters.

What if, instead of complaining about things that don’t really matter, we saw each inconvenience as an opportunity to embrace something new.  Or simply thought “How privileged am I to have these problems?”

 If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Ps 95:7-8)

%d bloggers like this: