On the surface, much of the substance of our lives is due to happenstance. We are born and grow up in particular places at particular times. The experiences of those times and places motivate our choices in ways not especially obvious to us at the time. We meet people we admire and some of them are doing things with their lives that attract our attention and interest. That leads to choices for education and relationships that shape the course of our lives. I emphasize the word choice in this, since I do not want to give the impression that situation and experience determine the direction of our lives. Rather they provide the context within which options occur to us. The choice of an option at one point in life narrows the range of choices beyond that. For example, we might choose to pursue the study of biology in college. From that study we discover a special interest in the care of animals. We move on to a school of veterinary medicine and become a practitioner of veterinary medicine. We may or may not have had this interest prior to the study of biology in college. It is completely possible to discover such an interest in the course of study and make the sequence of choices that leads to a lifetime profession.
In my small high school there were no offerings in foreign languages until my junior year. That year the superintendent hired a librarian who could also teach Latin. There was nothing in my experience till then that would have encouraged me to choose to learn Latin. Curricular choices were limited and I was eager to try anything that sounded challenging. It was genuinely interesting, and I was good at it, so that, on entering college, I chose to continue the study of Latin. That led to Greek as well and a major in classics. It had seemed earlier on that a career in high school teaching would be to my liking. However, ever since study for confirmation, I found, as John Wesley described his experience in the 18th century, that my heart was strangely warmed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I suppose I was rather more earnest than most of my peers in that small- town environment, socially more than a tad out of the mainstream. In college I met others who shared my interests and enthusiasms. Encouragement toward theological education entered my experience. I made that choice, and from there the choice for graduate study in New Testament, a choice encouraged by the facility acquired in Greek and Latin languages. That in turn led to a career in college teaching in religion and classical languages.
Had the Gospel not captivated me, I would surely have made a different choice for graduate study and a subsequent career. Thus I have no difficulty claiming that the promptings of the Spirit moved me along the course I took, even though with other circumstances and experiences I might have made quite another choice. An objective observer might say that one thing simply led to another. In any case, the fundamental call or vocation is the call to discipleship. That is what I value, the treasure that gives meaning to my life, a sense of coherence and destination that comforts. My particular career path is secondary to that call. The call to discipleship offers me the daily challenge to shape all of my choices with Jesus of Nazareth, who lived in a particular time and place, as model. Some two thousand years of the history of those who have done the same provide more than enough stuff for reflection and action. And the Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will.