Visions of vocation and the common good—it is a thread that runs through my life. And these last few days in Nashville have been one more story of that being worked out among a people in a place, that having been my work for many years now.
For three days I have given public addresses at Belmont University on this theme—the music industry school that it is, with almost half of its 6000 students hoping to enter into that world in some way –and each time took a song from well-known musicians as a way of entering into the conversation about vocation and the common good. From U2 to the Civil Wars, to Mat Kearney and the Fray, with several stops along the way into the life and labor of the Jars of Clay, I took up central questions that shape the way we understand who we are and how we live, what we believe and what consequences come from those beliefs.
Early on Monday morning I invited the student body at-large to “come take a walk with me amidst the magnolias”—this week the Belmont campus is beautiful with flowering trees and gardens –and a few did. That has always been an important part of my life as I have traveled around, as it makes the days more meaningful to me. Knowing that I have honestly talked with someone who has a name and a history, who is full of complex hopes and dreams, grounds the lectures in the reality of life.
If there is a word that I am always pursuing, it is “implication.” At Belmont it was always the question, “What does it mean to see ourselves as implicated in history?” Pressing the point, “What is the vocation of student, and how will studies in music, history, physics, business, and on and on, teach you that you are responsible for the common good, for the way that the world turns out?” Yes, that is always the question I am asking.
Dr. Steven Garber is Founder and Principal of the Washington Institute and author of The Fabric of Faithfulness.