DSC00814“What class would you like to teach?” she asked me at the end of the interview. I hadn’t expected that.

I had only walked into the English Department office at this California community college a few days before, and now I was being given a chance to choose the class I wanted. I left the campus excited, surprised, thrilled!

Opportunity knocks; perspicuity answers. I choose to teach “Critical Thinking About Literature,” because I wanted to think and read stories and teach students to do that with me. I choose well, looking back, because I thrived on teaching this class, and by doing so, I realized a long-standing passion — to teach college students literature.

Sometimes we get to knock out the opportunity-that-knocks.

How does that happen? We usually have to belly up to the fact that life’s opportunities don’t come knocking that much, particularly early on, when we are new to the game, young, or a novice, so we have to go knocking.

A few years earlier, on a trip to Brazil with some students from my church, I got to talking to a pastor I worked with about how important children are to a church. I enthused, I gushed, I fired him up, and myself too, and I made a decision right there to write a piece on how to creatively ramp up the positive attention given to children in churches. When I got home, I wrote the article, and then I sent it out to the best magazine in the field. They bought it, to my surprise, and I realized another dream I had been sheltering for years — to be a published writer.

It’s tough when we are young to figure out how to do what we ache inside to do but aren’t sure we can but want to try anyway even when we haven’t tried yet. What to do, what to try, are we good enough? Will it be a mistake, can we live with failure, do we  really want to do it? Does it sound to good to ever be true, are we worth it, can we cut it?  The questions mount, and sometimes come to loom high, like formidable Annapurnas jutting into skies of impossibility.

We should knock anyway. It is worth moving, in a particular direction, when we think we can. By an approach march, we test what is possible. Every journey has its uncertainties, its headwind, its steep pitches, but we don’t know if we can push past these until we try. Trying is not overrated. By trying, even by failing, we learn what we can do and what we can’t, at least at that particular time.

I’ve applied for teaching jobs I didn’t get. I’ve written articles that were rejected by editors. I have sometimes even felt that in these very special areas of personal giftedness, I couldn’t cut it. And I’ve come to see that this is normal. In every area we attempt to succeed in, at some point we will feel inadequate, temporarily frustrated, even done.  And yet,  despite some set backs and disappointments, my chosen careers — teaching and writing — have been my sweet spots, my personal playgrounds, my lovely battlefields, my sacred spaces for thriving and succeeding and making a difference.

I play the guitar; I’ve done so for years. I’ve written songs; I’ve led worship, but the guitar has never been a sweet spot for me.  I have never been paid for my modest guitar skills, I don’t have a good singing voice, and I have never had a song published. I’ve had fun with the guitar, and enjoyed playing on my own, but through experience, I’ve learned my musical limits, and I’ve come to see song as a sidebar for me,  a fun diversion, not the main thing, an appetizer, not an entrée, and this realization has been good for me. It has kept me from wasting too much time with a pick,  and set me to spending more time with a pen, and yet my awareness of the  place of music in my life has still allowed me a fair of amount of pleasure banging out some minor, partial, and power chords at home.

Opportunity — I’m still knocking. These days I’m thinking about what is next, creatively, and I’m looking inside the developing me within the very me of the quintessential me. What can I still do? Where should I yet knock?

The best place to find this answer lies inside of each of us. Other friends and family and counselors can help, but it is crucial that we come to own our own passions. We must, to be genuine, to be authentic, to keep moving toward an inward sense of success,  honor our own unique skills, treasure and safeguard our talents, and resource the opportunities we secretly burn for.

We all will do best when we begin to move towards what we want to do that no one has to tell us to want to do. We must trek toward the thing that gives us pleasure while at the same time that scares us like crazy.  We must go ask for what is reasonably possible and yet is so beyond what we have ever done before that we  fear  that we will not have the energy, intelligence, skill or opportunity to do it.

Our passions, I’m for taking a swing at them.

We just might knock out the next opportunity we knock on.

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