I borrowed “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation” by Parker Palmer from Karen Graham when we were down visiting. She had mentioned a portion of the book that really spoke to her, and it sounded interesting enough to read the book. Parker Palmer is an author, teacher, and teacher of teachers. He is a Senior Associate of the American Association for Higher Education. Like Elton Trueblood, the last author I mentioned, he is a Quaker.
“Let Your Life Speak” is a small book that could have a big impact on a person’s life. It is a collection of six essays that talk about vocation: finding the work of your life that uses your gifts. Finding this vocation is just as important whether you are the president of a university or the person cooking burgers at McDonalds. We each have to find the life that makes sense of OUR life. We can’t live someone else’s ideals just because they are lofty ideals or worthwhile goals. We must live out our true selves or else God cannot fully work in us.
In order to find this true life, we must listen to ourselves. Through prayer and the discernment of others, we find our gifts, acknowledge what God has given us, and “find our path of authentic service in the world.” Palmer quotes Frederick Buechner who defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
Palmer explores self-care which is not an act of selfishness, but good stewardship of the only gift we have. He talks about his own struggles with depression and finally his own understanding that God does not so much show us the way forward, as God closes doors behind us so that there are ways we cannot go.
The best chapter, for me, was the last one where he talks about the seasons and rhythms of life. Each season has a meaning for us and they are cyclical, so we go through them many times in our lives. I found this chapter very hopeful. As much as it might seem that we are trapped in winter, spring always – inevitably – comes. In our times of greatest productivity, we must remember that there are dark and cold days ahead. And even in spring, which is a green, growing, abundant time, we have to wade through messy mud and muck. It made me think of one of my favorite songs, “Every Season” by Nichole Nordeman.
God created each of us as individuals. Parker Palmer in this book, reminds us that we must be in conversation with God about direction and vocation in order to live out the life that God has planned for us.