In his fabulous book on vocation called Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer writes, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for 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.”
I first read these words fresh out of college, at a time when I was slowly recovering from a deep depression/crisis of self after an eye opening and even traumatizing study abroad experience. Horrified at the poverty and injustice I saw throughout Central America, I thrashed from angry to hopeless to numb and back for months after my return.
But I don’t count it as a waste. In fact, the very darkness that threatened to envelop me provided the space and silence to actually learn to listen to what my own life was speaking to me. To tune my ears to my true self. To see the values and truths I embody when expectations are thrown out the window.
Out of the darkness, out the rubble, I learned to hear God’s voice. I learned to listen to my own voice and learned to gauge and discern my own responses, my attractions and repulsions. Out of the silence I found life. I found hope. I found a job that brought me more joy and purpose than I could have ever imagined. I found a church that fed my soul and helped me to experience God as a personal, present, powerful source of Love within me.
I had learned, to some extent, to let my life speak.
But now, after a year of burnout and tears and agonizing over whether or not I should leave the job that had once brought me so much joy, I find myself at loss for what I really want.
While trying to survive burnout, to end my job well, to live up to all of the responsibilities I had taken on, I somehow forgot how to listen to my own life. I find myself here in Guatemala, fulfilling a long time dream, and yet I still feel hollow, like I’ve become a stranger to myself.
These last few months I have written, I have banked on, what I think God would or should be telling me instead of what I really hear.
And I’ve been calling it trust.
I haven’t really been hearing from God. Not like I used to. I’ve been remembering what He told me. I’ve been rewriting His past promises. Is this being true to myself? How can it be bad to remind myself of God’s character, voice, and promises? When does it become untrue? When am I feeding the emptiness, the expectations? When does anchoring myself on the past become an excuse not to listen for His voice today?
In his poem East Coker, T.S. Eliot writes, “There is only the fight to recover what has been lost