I was never much of a tennis player, but I became a tennis fan as an adult. And this week, I am all in on “Team Serena” as she makes her final appearance at the U.S. Open.
I believe Serena Williams is giving the world a master class on vocation. Who are we called to be? How is it—and in what role—that I fulfill my core identity? How does that identity shift over time? And what are the obstacles to our vocation that we must contend with?
The vocation that Serena and Venus Williams embarked upon as teens was one that was new. No one had ever been an amazing American Black female professional tennis player before. Althea Gibson was great—but played before women could play professionally. Many women—and men—worked to make women’s professional tennis a possibility, but no one had inhabited it in the way Venus and Serena would.
But they were called. And they served. And their vocations opened up that vocation to so many others. Madison Keyes, Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens. It’s much easier to follow the trailblazer.
And thank God for that.
Now Serena is open about the conflict in her dual vocations of motherhood and competitive tennis. So she is “evolving” away from competitive tennis (not retiring!). She will leave behind one vocation, not because she no longer loves it, but because she is called to something else.
There is grace in that decision that we would do well to heed in the church. How many times do we hold on to our roles in leadership because we cannot imagine being called to something else? How many times would the Gospel be better served by ensuring that we had been trailblazers who made room for others to follow our path rather than holding on to our seat?
Is there something new that you are being called to? Or a call that you are ready to lay down?