“The call to adventure is the call to discover who you really are.”

The hero’s journey begins with a call. The hero is called to leave the world he knows and venture off into the unknown. The Call may be expressed in many ways but perhaps the situation that hits closest to home for us, is the hero who is looking for his purpose in life, and receives a call to find it.

Sir Galahad, by George Frederick Watts, public domain

Galahad

In the medieval cycle of the quest for the holy grail, King Arthur is holding a feast for his knights on the vigil of Pentecost. Suddenly the hall is bathed in a golden glow, the aging knights take on a youthful appearance and a sweet aroma pervades the chamber.

The Grail appears, draped in a cloth of samite and floats around the room, As it passes the seat of each knight, the knight’s plate is filled with the food he desires most. Then as abruptly as it appears, the Grail vanishes.

Sir Galahad is the first to respond. He leaps to his feet and addresses the king. “I take a vow that I will leave this place on the morrow and will not rest until I behold the Grail uncovered and enjoy fully the repast which I only sampled this night.”

The other knights quickly follow suit and Arthur knows that this will be the last time they are all gathered together in fellowship.

The Promise

Unlike Sir Galahad, who was the perfect knight, we do not always respond to the call eagerly. We are often reluctant to leave behind the certainty of what we know in favor of the unknown, regardless of the promise held out to us.

In the hero stories, that promise, the thing the hero is called to, varies. It may simply be a call to adventure, the Arthurian legends usually begin because one knight or another has gone out in search of adventure to prove himself in a time of peace when there were no wars to fight.

It may be the promise of riches, the rescue of an innocent, the righting of a wrong, or the realization of a hidden destiny. All of these motivations mask the true goal of our soul’s journey, the journey to discover our true selves, the person God meant for us to be.

There is an old story that before we are born the archangel Gabriel shows each of us our destiny. He shows us who we are and our place in God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. We are shown who God intends for us to be, and what we are supposed to do. Then, just before we are born, the angel puts his finger to our lips and says, “shhhhh.”

We all know who we are and what we are to do, but we have forgotten, and God is constantly calling us to remember.

Refusing the Call

Often our first response is to refuse to answer The Call. We have taken the bits and pieces of our true nature, those that we still dimly recall, and make them into hobbies and interests. We use them to build up an armor around ourselves, shielding our hearts from the knowledge that we are less than what we could be, less than what God intended for us to be. If we did not do this then the truth would leave us heartbroken.

But we convince ourselves that we are happy as we are. We don’t need to answer any “call” to experience fulfillment. This is the person we show to the world, a shadow of who we really are.

In “The Hobbit,” Bilbo Baggins initially rejects The Call because it is just too disruptive to the quiet life he has built for himself, the life of a country gentleman.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone,” says Gandalf the wizard.

“I should think so—in these parts!” responds Bilbo, “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

Eventually Bilbo accepts the call to adventure and transforms his life and the lives of those around him.

We often drown out The Call by pursuing pleasures and distractions. If we should happen to hear the voice of God, whispering through the chaos and noise of the modern world, we simply ignore it, telling ourselves we are simply too busy. But if we refuse to answer The Call we will never know true happiness or fulfillment, and we can never show others the way.

Unworthy

Or perhaps we refuse The Call because we feel we are unworthy. In “The Last Starfighter,” Alex Rogan is called to save the universe from a ruthless enemy. But up to this point he has failed in trying to change his life and he no longer thinks he is capable of it.

“Listen Centauri, I’m not any of those guys (past heroes), I’m a kid from a trailer park.”

“If that’s what you think, then that’s all you’ll ever be.”

Do we hear The Call but feel we are unworthy to answer it? What value do you place on yourself? The entire world, all of reality, is different because you are here. All of the lives you have touched, all of the things you have said and done, no matter how small or insignificant you think they may be, have had an impact on the world. The world would be a very different place if you were not in it. An ordinary person is the most important of all of God’s creations. An ordinary person is a child of God. Created out of star-stuff and imbued with amazing powers by his or her Creator, and then carefully placed here in this world for a reason. If we refuse The Call to be who God created us to be, there is no telling what the loss will be to the world. We owe it to our brothers and sisters to find that purpose, and set the world on fire.

Fear

Or maybe we are simply afraid. We are afraid to leave behind the known for the unknown, regardless of how desperately we want to.

In “Star Wars,” “Ben” Kenobi invites Luke Skywalker to come with him to another planet, Alderaan, in order to save the princess who is being held captive by the evil empire. Luke’s response?

“Alderaan? I’m not going to Alderaan. I’ve got to go home. It’s late, I’m in for it as it is.”

Are we so tied to our ordinary world that we fail to see the extra-ordinary one that is waiting for us, promising to fulfill our heart’s desire? Certainly there is danger in answering The Call, nothing worthwhile is without risk. Our challenge then is to overcome our resistance, those inner doubts and fears that hold us back. Our challenge is to put our faith in the knowledge that God will not call us to anything we cannot handle.

When we finally answer The Call, our adventure begins. However, we are almost immediately faced with an obstacle, a threshold must be crossed from one world to the next.

 

This post appeared originally at DeaconLawrence.org
The Hero’s Journey of the Spirit