I figured I'd find out what I was good at and go from there--probably off to seminary. But what I discovered was that I was good at this--the different seasons and the variety of challenges that came with campus work. Not great at all of it, just good at lots of it.
The problem of discovering that you're good at something is that you start to believe it. I'm a dashing, hard-working young man who has pulled himself up by my own proverbial bootstraps. Bravo, me! The American self-made myth, gladly embraced.
And then you go to your grandfather's funeral. And then you have your proverbial bubble-myth loudly (and gladly) burst.
There I was yesterday, sitting in the service. Great-grandfather was a preacher. Grandfather and Grandmother were in Brazil as missionaries for forty years. In front of me are their four kids. All four serve the church either vocationally or on a serious pro-bono basis.
Beside me are a half-dozen cousins--one's gearing up for a church-plant, another leads worship at his church, another listens to sermon podcasts recreationally as he drives all over the state for his work. Another loves Jesus while directing junior high and high school band--I believe Dante has a special level of hell marked off for that. My bro and I are both full-time religious types.
The self-made man/woman myth of the American culture is just that--a myth. I was simply born into a powerful stream of grace that has caught up many generations of Kirks throughout the decades and is still carrying many of us through our lives.
This doesn't mean I haven't done any work. Dallas Willard sums this tension up gloriously (as he does so many things) when he makes this distinction: "Grace is opposed to earning, it is not opposed to effort." I have earned nothing, it has all been grace. I work hard. But the grace of God is upon me to do the work he'd have me to do.
Reflecting on this on the drive home tonight, I was reminded of one of the greatest quotes of all time--Gandalf, talking with Bilbo at the end of his adventures in "The Hobbit:"
Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!' said Bilbo.
'Of course!' said Gandalf. 'And why should not they prove true? Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!'
'Thank goodness!' said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.