The Journey with Jesus: Book Notes
Reviews By Dan Clendenin
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak; Listening for the Voice of Vocation (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001)
Here is a book that I wish I had read twenty years ago on that perennial Christian conundrum faced by so many: what is God’s will for me in my vocational life? I hasten to add that I am not sure that at that stage of my life I could or would have understood its wisdom. For the most part Christians try to answer this question about God’s vocational guidance by going “outside” of ourselves to external matters like my skills, the advice of others, perhaps some tests, and so on. But from his Quaker tradition Palmer urges us to go “inside” ourselves to matters of the heart. When we pursue the former path a “false” self often follows the expectations that others have of us and so distorts the “true” self. Vocation, in short, is not “a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear” (p. 4) or “a gift to be received” (p. 10). We discover this call or gift, writes Palmer, by listening to our life, by discovering the true self God made each of us to be, rather than by soliciting the acceptance and approval of others about what we “ought” to do. Palmer is a gifted story teller and writer, and shares liberally from his own vocational pilgrimage, warts and all. Entire chapters on clinical depression and “when way closes” (a Quaker aphorism) were helpful. A final chapter uses the seasons as a metaphor for the vocational life, reminding us as we move inevitably through fall, winter, spring and summer that, contrary to all culture tells us, we do not only “manufacture” our life, but would do well to “grow” it.