Vocation in Frozen II
I’m grateful for Professor Legarre’s recent letter to the editor in The Observer and for the important conversation it begins on the question of vocation. I’d like to offer, in charity and out of my own discernment, a response to the piece and what it might mean for God to call us.
The noun “vocation” (verb: vocare) does suggest a voice who calls, who utters words. In His Goodness, God does call, just as the voice in Frozen II calls Elsa. God is the Word, and speaks throughout history, in the Scriptures, and with a voice! What a gift it is to know and trust that voice, whether it comes in words, through friends, in desires, or by doors opened and doors shut.
But, back to Frozen II. Professor Legarre is mistaken when he says that Elsa is the only character who hears that voice. The voice is for her, but she’s assured of its verity when the gecko (a brilliantly cute marketing ploy,) hears it too. It is also important to acknowledge that it is not her voice, but her mother’s, that calls. When, in “Into the Unknown,” Elsa first begins to acknowledge the persistent song that has been “keeping her awake,” she’s reluctant to answer. When she accepts the invitation and follows the voice through trials and errors she finds herself, finally, at its source.
This is where the “Let It Go” of the sequel, called “Show Yourself,” unexpectedly and beautifully captures vocation––what it is to call and to be called. “I can sense you there,” Elsa sings, “like a dream I can reach but not quite hold / I’m arriving / And it feels like I am home.”
Vocation is our homecoming. At long last, we have responded to the voice that knows our longings and hopes, our insecurities and fears. Finally, we have found the one for whom we were made: the Love for which we were created.
Elsa could not have planned her call, and neither can we plan perfectly our own. Whether it’s to the single life, marriage, or consecrated life, to medicine, law, or art, it is God who has chosen us: “it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (John 15:16).
She continues: “I’ve never felt so certain / all my life I’ve been torn / but I’m here for a reason / could it be the reason I was born?” With vocation comes the exhilarating certainty of finding for what we were made. This is not a certainty we can create! I cannot will myself into a perfect relationship, community, or job. Rather I find the certainty of my call in knowing that it is another, not myself, has spoken to my heart from its creation.
I appreciate Professor Legarre’s eagerness to clarify that God’s speech is often not written in the sky, though we might like it to be. But it is a mistake to propose, as the professor does, that it is no call at all. God calls both in silence and in clear conversation with our hearts. He moves when we are close to Him in prayer and sacrament, in our desires, and in community with those who know and love us. The call does not come in a vacuum; it echoes through our whole lives and selves. Ultimately, we know it, difficult as it may be to articulate, when we hear it. And we do hear it because, well, He does speak.
When we are given that gift – when He speaks through and in our lives and loves – we can sing with Elsa: “You are the answer I’ve waited for / all of my life.”
Discernment is difficult. It demands vulnerability. While Frozen II is by no means a perfect representation of this process it does offer us a lens through which we might better see how we can respond to our own call. For Elsa, discernment asked for a willingness to risk her home and queenship to cross a (literal) ocean of uncertainty. If we place ourselves in that position, we can recognize, as Professor Legarre does, that our attributes, preferences, circumstances, and talents have all been calling us to our vocation. But I want to suggest that those things – though they are not words per se – are God’s speech just as much as His call to Samuel, His invitation to the apostles, or His cry of thirst to Mother Teresa is His speech. Even when the silence isn’t filled with the words we long to hear, we can still trust that God is calling. Assured by our prayer and in the peace of knowing that we have entrusted our will to Him, we can act, confident that in His Providence we will live out His call. Like Elsa, we can answer with all that we have and all that we are: “I am found.”
“The one who calls you is faithful,” Paul tells us in the first letter to the Thessalonians (5:24). Thank God for that.
Maggie Garnett is a sophomore studying theology, with minors in constitutional studies and ESS. She aspires to have “Show Yourself” be her most-listened-to song for 2020, and is listening to it on loop as she writes this. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.