I’m currently reading a book called “Let Your Life Speak” by Parker J. Palmer for one of the classes I’m taking online this summer. I just started reading it, but I can tell it is going to be one of the those books I read over and over and over again because there is so much truth to be found in it. I just finished writing a reflection assignment for this class on the first chapter of the book and I would like to share with you part of this reflection.
This book is all about vocation: living out who we were made to be. According to Palmer, “vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue, it means a calling that I hear”. The first line in this book reads “Ask me whether what I have done is my life”. He goes on to explain this more in saying that the things that we “do” and our lives have become one in the same. We value what people “do” over who people “are” or are “becoming”. That’s just a little intro, but I definitely recommend reading this book in whole. I hope that this reflection may inspire you to do some of your own reflecting and ask the question “wait, so why am I here again?”
A quote that struck a chord with me in particular from the first chapter of this book says, “the difficulty is compounded by the fact that from our first days in school, we are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves, to take all our clues about living from the people and powers around us” (Palmer, 5). While I would like to say that I lean towards a vocation that involves “listening to our true voice”, I would be deceiving myself if I claimed that to be true of my tendencies. It is much easier for me to submit to what people expect me to do and on a larger, systemic scale what white, middle-class America says I should do to be happy in life.
For so long I always told people how I wanted to travel the world, and recently I’ve been telling people how even though I have a year left of college I’m already thinking of graduate school or law school. While these dreams sound all lofty and wonderful, when I say them to people I almost feel like I’m telling a lie because when I hear the soft whisper of God’s voice I know he is not telling me to reach for “upward mobility”, but rather a life of “downward mobility”; he is not calling me to get caught up in the world of academia—at least not for the time being—but rather to “simplify” and “invest in relationships” with those around me.
While I practically came out of the womb ready to join as many extra-curricular activities as humanly possible, I am currently trying to learn a lesson I missed long ago: what is means to simply “be”. I have found in this state of “being” rather than “doing” that I can hear God’s voice much more clearly and that maybe my grandiose ideas of what vocation “ought to be” were really roadblocks to what God was calling me to “be”: a person of compassion and of grace; a person who loves those around her well; a person of solidarity and missional presence; a person willing to admit her flaws and not be ashamed; a person willing to fully embrace who God made her to be; a person able to see the beauty around her in each present moment instead of worrying about what “might be” or “ought to be”. And in the process of it all I can see that I am “becoming” more of that person that God always had in mind when he “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (NLT, Ps. 139).