Discovering Christ’s Guiding Hand Through Letting Your Life Speak

the_puppet_master_by_mini_zilla-d325mdnA few days ago I looked a bit at what it means that Psalm 139 pictures God in Christ writing our lives in a book. I discussed how this does not mean God has fated us, nor that God has willed disease, disaster, and death in the ways we often think of when we picture God as some puppet-master in the sky. No, rather, God works through covenant, through partnering with people like you and me who then work together with each other to help mend and perfect God’s good creation.
That said, I do think there is a powerful and beautiful message in Psalm 139 for us, as we reflect on what it means to see ourselves as ones surrounded by, shaped by, filled with, and led by the all-embracing presence of the Cosmic Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Though these words do not mean our lives necessarily are dictated by God, they do mean they are shaped by God. To me the way they are shaped by God is perhaps most beautifully pictured by the words of the hymn, “I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry”:

“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.

“I was there when you were but a child,
with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off
to find where demons dwell.

“When you heard the wonder of the Word
I was there to cheer you on;
You were raised to praise the living Lord,
to whom you now belong.

If you find someone to share your time
and you join your hearts as one,
I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme
from dusk ’till rising sun.

“In the middle ages of your life,
not too old, no longer young,
I’ll be there to guide you through the night,
complete what I’ve begun.

“When the evening gently closes in,
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.

“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.”

As this song beautifully pictures, there is not a part of our lives in which the living Christ does not surround us on every side, holding and guiding us.
This means that if we stop, pay attention, and reflect on our own stories, these truly can be places we encounter Christ guiding and teaching us, showing us how we can best join in the story God has for us.
parker palmerTo me, Parker Palmer puts well the lesson of this aspect of coming to know more fully the cosmic Christ, when he writes:
“self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch. . . Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. . . 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.” ― Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
In his book Let Your Life Speak, Palmer beautifully pictures how he uses his experience of struggling with depression to help him learn to listen to his life anew and how simply paying attention to the lessons his lived and experienced life could teach revealed to him more fully his vocation.
I feel my movement from pastor to chaplain came through just such a process myself. I will not say I won’t pastor again, but I remember reaching a point that the ways in which I had been pastoring for years simply didn’t fit. I was trying to be and do a certain kind of ministry, one I had modeled to me, which was very in the streets, very busy speaking up and out in public ways, and full of much personal sacrifice. I did a lot of good. But my heart hurt so deeply. When other personal crises occurred that forced me to search my heart and soul, I realized the model of ministry I had been living out simply didn’t fit me. I took a step back, a step focused on inner healing.
That healing work within led me toward chaplaincy, a ministry in its own right, but which focuses on doing work of healing in the world from a place of inner healing. Looking back now, I realize that often in my outreach, activism, and pastoral work I was so focused outside myself — on the needs of others, on structural issues of injustice, on building communities for the broken – I neglected my own inner wholeness and healing. Now the work I do flows from that. I see how everything I did before going through this time of listening to my life and letting it guide me could have flowed from this same place, but I had to step back and change what I did in order to be able to minister from my inner depth.
Now my commitment in life and ministry is to let my relationships with others, the work I do, even my place in my community, flow from this inner depth. If I ever pastor again, it will be from the same inner wells of life that now fuels my chaplain work and writing and all my relationships.
Ultimately we all need to stop the constant pace of life and deeply listen to our own lives speak for, in the voice of our own lives the Coscmic Christ is calling out to us, the same One who tells us,
““I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.”
Your progressive redneck preacher,


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