What a heart-warming, gentle, affirming, and inspiring little book this is. I think it will be hard for me to review this book without engaging in a “what it has meant to me” discourse. This isn’t a bad thing, but I think before starting down that path, I should share a few of the technical specifics about this book first.
As I mentioned in my opening statements, this is a small book…physically small and then only slightly over one hundred pages including notes and credits. Don’t let the size fool you; Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation is a very rich and spiritually deep book. Palmer shares in the introduction that Let Your Life Speak consists primarily as a collection of essays appearing in other publications from the past decade (1990-2000?). He goes on to state the essays have been rewritten (some substantially) so this book would be “coherent whole” and not just a collection of articles. It is my opinion that Mr. Palmer succeeded in his goal. I found the book very organic and flowing in the spirit of its intent.
The book traces Parker’s journey of self-discovery with honest, transparency, and humility. Fitting, it seems, for a book of this nature and caliber. Perhaps “self-discovery” might be a misleading way of portraying the journey unfolded in Let Your Life Speak. The measure of discovery is found in the unraveling of the true-self and the false-self. We are told in the pursuit of the Christian faith that “God has a plan and purpose for your life…” While this teaching about personal and vocational purpose for our lives may be true, discovering it in the truest context of God’s plan can be perplexing at times. Each person’s journey may not be the same and the discovery of the true-self as we pertain to the image of God may be unique to each of us, but there are some similarity and common experience that lead us to and through these discoveries of the true self. Palmer’s journey provides an inspiring parallel for us to examine our own journey…both the inner and the vocational—which are not necessarily separate or mutually exclusive.
I have benefited greatly from the writings of other spiritual masters on this topic (John of the Cross, Teresa Avila, Thomas Merton, and M. Basil Pennington to name a few). Palmer’s voice and experience bring fresh insight to these masters as well as sharing practical relevance with them as well. I found the teaching of this little book to be a great addition to my library and a worthy example of the disciple who is truly seeking to answer the question: “Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?” I make the assumption; right or wrong, that the life Parker refers to is the Christ-life. Honestly seeking to surrender to the life Christ desires to live in and through us is the sum of what discipleship is about in my understanding. Let Your Life Speak is very helpful in gently walking the seeker along in this process.“The figure calling to me all those years was, I believe, what Thomas Merton calls 'true self.' This is not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another from of self-distortion), not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas, not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code. It is the self-planted in us by the God who made us in God’s own image– the self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be… True self is true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one’s peril.”
Parker Palmer; Let Your Life Speak