Venting the Light – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistMatthew 5:14-16

The story is told that Winston Churchill stuttered as a young child. This is the Winston Churchill whose later eloquence was probably the single-most important factor in saving western Europe from tyranny in the 1940s. Churchill stuttered as a self-conscious, frightened little boy.  Now there’s a developmental theory that would say his oratorical brilliance as an adult developed as a compensation for his childhood sense of inferiority.[i] This “compen­sation theory” says that, for example, in our childhood or youth the challenges, say, of birth defects, of illness, of discrimina­tion, of poverty, of family craziness, or of other unfortunate circum­stances provide the very stimulus for all later higher achievements. In other words, this compensation theory would say that small, sickly, self-conscious, or sad chil­dren are driven by this principle of compen­sation to develop into towering leaders of activity and strength. Churchill would seem an example of it, and some of us here may identify with that very notion.

But there’s another “take” on why it is we grow into who we are, which is called the “acorn theory.”[ii]  Grow­ing up is not about compensation; it’s about recov­ery. Each of us enters the world, some­thing like an acorn, with the seed of calling, with a sense of identity, with a vision of destiny. And so, of course Churchill stuttered as a child! Given this nascent, daunting sense as a child that his voice, his voice would be the instrument to save the western world, of course he stuttered as a child.  Wouldn’t you?  We may well have glimpsed our destiny or life’s calling when we were yet a child, but we might have avoided it, or denied it, or run from it.  In Jesus’ words, we may have put the light of our calling under a bushel basket.

You have this unique acorn within you. You are a certain person, and that person begins to appear early in your life… but it’s actually been there all the way through your life, from the very beginning. Life is not about our com­pen­sating for our earlier inferiorities; life is about recovering our true self. Or, in the language of Psalm 27, which we have just prayed: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life, of whom then shall I be afraid…”

In the calendar of the church, we remember today a 7th century monk in Rome who was sent to England as a missionary. This is Paulinus. He would preach, and teach, arbitrate and adjudicate, and rescue and provide sanctuary. Ultimately became Archbishop of York. He found the clarity and courage to say “yes” to his life, to his life’s vocation, to his life’s calling which had been seeded into him at his birth.

And you? What about you, in this stage of your life? Your stage may be far smaller than Paulinus’; however it’s your unique calling. All your life you’ve been getting ready, or getting readied, for now. It’s about that acorn seeded into your soul from the beginning. The light is probably dawning on you – what God is calling you to be and do – and you could easily feel overwhelmed. But God is the source of the light, and God is behind the dawning. You will have the inner light you need, and you will have light you need on the path ahead. There will be provision.  God is behind your calling. God is also ahead of your calling. There will be provision. Go ahead. Say “yes.”

[i]Alfred Adler (1870-1937) – a colleague of Freud and Jung – developed the theory of compensation: the roots of later superiorities are buried in early inferiorities.  Adler’s theory is challenged by American psychologist James Hillman (1926-2011) with his “acorn theory.” The studies quoted here are drawn from Hillman’s The Soul’s Guide; In Search of Character and Calling, p. 22ff.


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  1. Charles G Groves on November 20, 2023 at 10:08

    Truly helpful words, Brother Curtis. Again, thank you for your helpful insight.

  2. Alexandra on November 20, 2023 at 06:52

    One year later, I return to comment again. I am grateful to be reminded that God is behind my calling, as well as ahead of my calling. I have been impatient in recent days – why are certain parts of my life taking longer to manifest? In those moments, I forget that God’s timing, not my own, steers my vision boat. And yes – my acorn, my uniqueness, appeared early in life. I pray, with God’s guidance and provision, that my calling, identity, and destiny are fully-revealed. Once again, a beautiful message to ponder and savor, as we approach the season of Advent.

  3. Alexandra Bacon on November 21, 2022 at 18:15

    The last paragraph is written on a Post-It, and will be placed on my vision board. God is definitely with me in this new life chapter; God provides. Assurance of God’s presence, in the midst of doubt. “There will be provision. Go ahead. Say ‘yes’.” ***YES***

  4. Judith Blaisdell on November 21, 2022 at 18:00

    As always, God sends a timely message through you, Br. Curtis! Thank you for your splendid encouragement to say YES!

  5. carol carlson on November 21, 2022 at 10:45

    As always, Br. Curtis, you bring us much here to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest – but the notion that all my life up to this point has been preparation for THIS day is mind-boggling. As someone who has had, intentionally and practically, to recover a ‘true self’ out from under the bushels of others’ expectations, I can vouch for the truth of your exhortation. Saying ‘yes’ is a lifelong process, and this is powerful encouragement to do it – again – today. Thank you!

  6. Craig K on November 21, 2022 at 10:09

    This will help me on my journey with God and others, Br. Curtis!
    Respectfully, Craig K

  7. Priscilla March on November 21, 2022 at 09:14

    On this, my birthday, your words were a most timely reminder and blessing! Thank you.

  8. Jeanne DeFazio on October 10, 2019 at 09:25

    Great words of encouragement

    • Susan Kuhn on October 10, 2019 at 16:14

      The book title is The Soul’s Code.
      Beautiful sermon.

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