A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It “consents,” so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.
The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him. If it tried to be like something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give Him less glory. [...]
Therefore each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity, gives glory to God by being precisely what He wants it to be here and now, in the circumstances ordained for it by His Love and His infinite Art. (Merton, 1987, pp. 29-30)
I ran away from the desire to become a teacher for a long time. My stubbornness led me away, from what I long knew was my vocation, to a winding road that included law school and the public relations industry. But where my stubbornness led me, God met me with teaching experiences in the unlikeliest of places. Ultimately, prayer and reflection and God’s grace would lead me to trust the stirrings of my heart and pursue my vocation. During my discernment process, I recalled the title of a Parker Palmer (1999) book that I read for a vocation seminar course at Santa Clara University: Let Your Life Speak. The title is based on an Old Quaker saying that Palmer stumbled upon in his early thirties and that led him to pursue his own vocation. Four simple words were charged with meaning for Palmer and also brought me to a point in my life where I listened to the voice of vocation.
Spirituality is an integral part of the educator’s journey. It is a connectedness between the essence of one’s being to the sacer—the sacred. It is also the awareness that, having been created by God, we have a unique purpose and, our soul, an inherent desire to glorify God. To let our lives speak, as the Quaker saying encourages us, is to listen and to act. We listen to our life speak to us when we listen to God’s voice in the depths of our being and we allow our life to speak volumes when we live our vocation and move closer to becoming the persons we are meant to be.
In the past two years, I have listened and I have trusted and I have allowed my life to speak. It is this relationship with God—this understanding that I am called to teach—that drives me to be a reflective educator. Not only reflective in terms of what I teach and how I teach, but also in how I live out my joy of being in relationship with God from the moment I walk through the doors of the school to the moment I walk out. It is God’s grace that sustains me along this fulfilling and sometimes rough path of an educator. I live in the knowledge that, like the tree, my vocation as a teacher is to glorify God. It is my spirituality that grounds me. And, as I look at my students it is what reminds me that beyond grades, behaviors, and actions they are children of God and what a joy it is to have been put in one another’s lives.
Merton, T. (2007). New Seeds of Contemplation. New York, NY: New Directions.
Palmer, P. (1999). Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.
This reflection was originally published at my other blog lightingafire.angelq.me, on July 10, 2012.