Recently in my career counseling class, the class was assigned to write a reaction paper on Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation.
The book is named after an old Quaker saying that’s meaning to Palmer has changed multiple times throughout his life. At the time the book was written, he states that the title has “a meaning faithful both to the ambiguity of those words and to the complexity of my own experience: ‘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.’”
Throughout this book, Palmer begins his book with some questions that one should expect to arise when the author is discussing the topic of calling and vocation and discussing these topics from a Christian point of view. These questions are simple to ask yet not simple to answer. They include both “what is one called to do?” and “what is a vocation?” From the first question that is raised, it is clear that Palmer believes that individuals have callings on their lives. This presupposition of his permeates each page of his entire book and understandably so.
In addition, Palmer discusses the idea of vocation. He believes that individuals do not choose their vocation. It cannot be a conscious decision. Instead, one’s vocation comes to them when they listen to their lives. They are to listen not to what they would like their lives to be about, but more importantly what they are about. Palmer holds the position that no matter how sincere intentions may be, if life is not listened to it will never embody anything real in the world.
When reading this book, I could not help but become frustrated. Given that we are all fallen, is seems absurd to look to ourselves for the answers to what God’s plan is in our lives. Personally, I fall into the “Bull’s Eye” school of thought when it comes to God’s plan for our lives. This means that I believe that God has a perfect, detailed plan for all people. So, listening to your life to determine what God has for you, as suggested by Palmer, seems to be the exact opposite to my belief system.