Let Your Life Speak
Sunday, May 27, 2018
God’s image within each of us is inherent and irrevocable. God’s likeness is our unique expression of that image, inviting our full and conscious participation. Vocation is one way in which we discover and grow into our “True Self.” I’m not speaking so much about education, career, or livelihood, though in some cases they might overlap. In general, it is a Larger Life that somehow calls us forward (vocatio means “a call or summons” in Latin), more than we call it to us. We do not know its name yet, so how can we call it? If we engineer the process too much, we often mistake a security-based occupation for our soul’s vocation.
Parker Palmer, a Quaker teacher and activist whom I deeply trust, reflects on his own “further journey”:
[There are] moments when it is clear—if I have the eyes to see—that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And . . . I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?
I was in my early thirties when I began, literally, to wake up to questions about my vocation. By all appearances, things were going well, but the soul does not put much stock in appearances. Seeking a path more purposeful than accumulating wealth, holding power, winning at competition, or securing a career, I had started to understand that it is indeed possible to live a life other than one’s own. . . .
Then I ran across the old Quaker saying, “Let your life speak.” I found those words encouraging, and I thought I understood what they meant: “Let the highest truths and values guide you. Live up to those demanding standards in everything you do.” . . .
So I lined up the loftiest ideals I could find and set out to achieve them. The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque. But always they were unreal, a distortion of my true self—as must be the case when one lives from the outside in, not the inside out. I had simply found a “noble” way to live a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.
Today, some thirty years later, “Let your life speak” means something else to me . . . : “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen to what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” 
In other words, your life is not about you. You are about a larger thing called Life. You are not your own. You are an instance of a universal and eternal pattern. Life is living itself in you. The myriad forms of life in the universe are merely parts of the One Life—that many of us call “God.” You and I don’t have to figure it all out, fix everything, or do life perfectly by ourselves. All we have to do is participate in this One Life. To find our unique niche in that Always Larger Life is what we mean by “vocation.”
 Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey-Bass: 2000), 2-3.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2004), 60, 61.