|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on June 2, 2021 at 5:10 PM|
In my role as Episcopal Campus Minister at the college I have frequent conversations with students about vocational discernment. This should come as no surprise to anyone. The general, if unfair expectation for many is that the college years are primarily about deciding what one will do with the rest of one’s life. This can engender a high level of angst for the students, especially as they near the end of the college careers.
Next academic year, I am hoping to create some intentional group conversations with the students around this topic of vocational discernment. As such, I have been revisiting a couple of books that I encountered on my own journey: Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer, and The Remarkable Ordinary by Frederick Buechner. They are different books, written in different styles, but they share a similar understanding of discernment: that it is a lifelong process and largely the product of living one’s life with an attentive patience that is open to the teachings of daily life-experience, even, and perhaps especially, in its mundanity. Palmer and Buechner both seem to genuinely trust that God can and does “speak” to us in and through our life experiences. Buechner encourages us to take the time to “stop, look, and listen” to our lives. Palmer reminds us that there are just as important lessons in the “way closings” of life as there are in the “way openings”. Both authors call us to that place of attentive patience and openness.
The wisdom of these two books applies not just to the discernment of one’s vocation/career, but to the entirety of life’s journey, and particularly to those liminal moments of transition that we all encounter along the way. Like the one we are all experiencing together right now! I know that most of us would rather not be reminded of the virtue of patience at this juncture, but I believe that’s exactly what this moment invites. Even as we are making wonderful strides back towards “normalcy”, we do well to not rush it and to remember to “stop, look, and listen” to our lives.
Where is God speaking to us here and now? What might God have been saying to us in and through our experiences of the pandemic? What ways have been closed to us that need to remain closed? What ways have opened up to us that invite faithful and courageous (not rushed!) steps forward? What “certainties” about life have been challenged and perhaps need to be set aside? What “non-negotiables” need to be re-evaluated and re-classified? What new thing(s) might God be calling us to?
Let’s stop, look, and listen together!