Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 7, 2004

“What Should I Do with My Life?”


          The question is the title of a book written by Po Bronson and published in 2002 by Random House. The book has been widely acclaimed and was for a time on the New York Times Bestsellers list. A gifted writer, Bronson tells the true stories of how 55 people answered this ultimate question about a life vocation.

            I hope the book is now available in every high school in America. The book will help inquiring young people realize that most of us struggle to know what to do with our lives. Bronson traveled widely to find and interview persons about how they chose a vocation, many of whom made mistakes before getting it right.

            Publishers Weekly said of the book, “Brimming with stories of sacrifice, courage, commitment and, sometimes, failure, the book will support anyone pondering a major life choice or risk without force-feeding them pat solutions.” I heartily agree.

            Struggle is a good word to describe the process of choosing one’s vocation. I struggled with this tough question just as most of my friends did. Was it my “destiny” to become a preacher? I think so now, looking back.

            Asked as a high school senior to write a theme on my intended vocation, I boldly responded by saying that I believed God wanted me to be a minister. Writing the theme was not difficult. What was tough was trying to believe that my discernment was correct. Leaving home, I absorbed myself in student life at Auburn University. Asked about my vocational goal, I said I dreamed of being a sports writer or an English teacher. I tried not to think about becoming a preacher. I was having too much fun being “free” from the control of my parents and living the carefree life of a student at a secular college.

            If I thought I could hide from God, he proved me wrong. He found me in a fraternity house and there my struggle ended in my sophomore year.  When I announced my intention to become a preacher, my fraternity brothers, in Pi Kappa Phi, surprised me with their affirmation. They immediately gave me the nickname, “Parson,” and it stuck. I owe them a lot; had they ridiculed me, I might have given up on becoming a preacher. Soon I was teaching “Sunday School” on Sunday mornings to the fellows who had dropped out of going to a nearby church.

            Looking back, I realize now that God had a hand in my college work. I graduated with a major in English and a double minor in speech and journalism. God knew what I did not, that those three disciplines would be of enormous value to me as a minister who, from my youth, was infected with the desire to write.

            I watched my own sons struggle with vocational choices. They made their mistakes, as I made mine, but they seem now, in their forties, to be at peace about how they are spending their lives. That is a great comfort to Mama and me.

            Now I observe my grandchildren growing up and wondering what to do with their lives. I will mention some of them. John, now a college freshman, wants to study criminal justice. Anthony, a high school senior, has his sights on civil engineering. Younger brother Robert, a fine athlete, wants to become a coach.

            Garrett, 24, worked at odd jobs after high school, having no interest in college. Recently he took action to transform his life. He joined the US Army. Now he is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, learning to be a paratrooper. He likes the Army and seems to have “found himself.”

            Joseph, a tenth grader, wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps and work outdoors, perhaps in timber or wild life management. His sister Hannah, 14, plans to study physical education. Hannah may do that, though she could enjoy a career as a writer or poet. Here is a sample of her skill at this young age:

The sky is His paper,

The sun His ink.

He paints with yellow

That turns into pink.

He paints with colors

So very bright,

And through them shine

His brilliant light.

He makes the sun

Melt in the sky.

Seen a better artist?

Never have I.

            Clair seems content to be a homemaker these days. She and Matt have three fine boys who demand attention 24 hours a day. Still, Clair pursues her dream of becoming a photographer. She shows promise of being a good one. Already she is handling the camera for many weddings in her community.

            Matthew wants to become a master chef. Disdaining my “wise” counsel to do something better with his life, he continues to learn the trade of cooking in restaurants. Soon he hopes to be manager of his own kitchen in a swanky eating-place. Maybe he has found his calling. The decision, after all, is his.

            Jake, 12, wants a cowboy hat so he can learn to rope steers on the rodeo circuit. As he grows older, and the steers get bigger, I think Jake may consider some other options. Right now, I am prepared to sit in the stands and cheer him on.

            His brother, Josh, is eight, and wants to become a preacher. He first said that last August. One might expect a young boy to change his mind many times before adulthood. However, I would not bet on it. Last Wednesday night he preached a fine sermon at his Uncle Matt’s church, Trinity Methodist at Weoka. Taking a phrase from a song, he said “You gotta have faith,” reminding the congregation that the Bible says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Mama and I were impressed.

            In his book, Bronson answers the question, “What do people really want?” His answer: “They want to find work they’re passionate about.” Benefits and incentives are not enough. “Productivity explodes,” Bronson said, “when people love what they do.”

            In that, he found a key. Loving what one does is so important. I could not possibly have loved anything more than I have loved preaching the gospel for the past 50 years.

            If  “our place is in His peace,” then we need to keep seeking until we find that “sweet spot” where we have peace. Then we can be passionate about what we do. + + + +