Discussion Questions for Will Willimon: Your Work is a Calling
Listen to the conversation between Kate & Will, here.
1. “I think one of the challenges of the Christian life is to realize that the life we’re living is not our own,” says pastor and professor Will Willimon at the beginning of the podcast. Is this one of the challenges of your life? If so, how are you experiencing that challenge?
2. How do you know you’re called to something? Kate asks Will. Well, he says, “There has to be a definite sense of direction,” and that direction is not exactly your idea. When have you felt called to something or someone you couldn’t explain with logic alone?
3. Calling isn’t just a word reserved for a special class of spiritual people. It can also mean noticing the challenges of your everyday life—a sickness, a divorce—and hearing in them a commission to help others. Who do you know who has found an assignment in their adversity? What’s beautiful about this work? What’s gruesome about this work?
4. Kate describes the contradiction between the high hopes we have for our callings and the mundane moments that comprise them. Can you think of a time in your own life when you felt the gloriousness and ordinariness of your life’s work butt right up against each other?
5. Sometimes when we’re stretched thin by our responsibilities and relationships, Will believes, we have to “act the role to assume the role.” In other words, we have to do the work even when we may not feel the work. How do Will’s words land in your body today? Do they leave you with a sense of hope, hopelessness, or something else?
6. Will decries the “myth of the roleless individual” or the idea that we are more ourselves apart from the roles that we play. Instead, he says, “There’s no you there without the roles, without the assignments, without the relationships.” Do you agree with Will? When do you feel most yourself? When do you feel furthest away from yourself? What do you notice about the differences?
7. Will tells a story about a time when a young man got involved in racial justice work not because of any grand gesture Will made but simply because Will remembered his name. In Will’s words: “God says, look, give me what you got. I’ll work it up into something interesting.” When has a small moment in your own life been turned into something bigger (and more interesting) than you could have imagined?
8. We’re called into aging, Will believes, to assume our tasks not just for personal betterment but for the betterment of others. He gives the examples of taking care of your body, telling someone you love them, or asking for forgiveness. What do you believe are the tasks of aging?
9. The double pandemic of confronting white racial violence and COVID-19 is a call for adaptation, Will says, but also a call to remember that we are not alone. What do you feel called to during this particular season of life? How are you finding purpose amidst everyday pains or blasé feelings? Where are you aware of the presence of joy—or God?
10. Kate ends the podcast by thanking Will for doing “the unglamorous work of being there.” What’s one way you can participate in this holy and unglamorous work right now?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate & Will’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?
Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.
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