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What, exactly, sustains us in our vocation: a memory, a feeling, a sense, an idea, or something more tangible? And how do we recover a sense of calling when our feelings and memories lag?

Questions like these badgered me recently when I was studying in Scotland. During that time, our washing machine broke down.

I talked with the repairman-or service engineer, as he is called in Scotland-as he sat on our kitchen floor, dissecting our clothes washer. He had discussed his own church experience as a Roman Catholic in Glasgow. He opined about the priesthood and ministry in general. Then he asked me, "Why are you a minister?"

It was a simple question, asked without guile. But I was stumped for a moment.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Maybe I shouldn't ask something so personal."

"No," I answered, "it's a good question. Only it just occurred to me that the way I would have answered you ten years ago isn't how I'd answer you now. Ten years ago I'd have said God called me, though he never spoke to me out loud. ...

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