From the Publisher
“In this so-beautiful book, Robert Benson provides the sky in which your soul can soar. You can fly.”
–Leonard Sweet, author of the The Gospel According to Starbucks
“A rare treasure of a book. Robert Benson invites us into a heartfelt and humble journey of discovery of our calling via brokenness. Benson’s generous language fills the reader’s heart with godly wisdom, humor, and care. A must-read for all those struggling with the gap between deeper longings and the day-to-day struggles of our lives.”
–Makoto Fujimura, founder of the International Arts Movement, and author of River Grace and Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture
“The Robert Benson whom so many of us trust and enjoy has never been more open or wiser or funnier about vocation than he is here. Alternately candid and droll, lyrical and entertaining, he lays out the fruits of a lifetime and invites us to feast at will upon them. You will love this book.”
–Phyllis Tickle, author of The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord and The Divine Hours
“Benson makes a convincing argument that the voice we hear urging us to do the work we love could actually be the voice of the greatest lover of all. By the book’s end, readers will smile to think that the vocational boxes we would like to check on our life resume are the same boxes God has already selected for us.”
-Nancy Hull, book reviewer for Horn Book Review and The Grand Rapids Press, and author of On Rough Seas
“An insightful and sensitive book about the all-important subject of vocation.”
–Marcy Heidish, author of Soul and the City and A Woman Called Moses
More Praise for Other Books by Robert Benson
“Benson’s tone remains chatty and down-to-earth, and the analogies he draws hit the mark ....”
–The New York Times Book Review
“Benson writes mellifluously with original insights and welcome humor .... [He] captures a world in which time slows down and material things become of less importance .... Charming and elegantly written . . . that rare gift, a thought-provoking record of his own spiritual quest .... Willa Cather’s phrase, ‘They will be done in art as it is in heaven’ could serve as an epigraph to (his) fine work.”
“In looking at his own life with candor and hope, Robert Benson helps us to look at our own. His words have the ring of truth.”
–Frederick Buechner, acclaimed author of more than 30 novels and non-fiction books, including his latest, Secrets in the Dark
“Robert Benson reminds us of what we too often forget–that the ground we walk upon is sacred. With the creative eye of a novelist and the playfulness of a poet, he tutors us in the art of really knowing the place where we live and celebrating the wonders in our own backyards.”
–Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, coauthors of Spiritual Literacy and directors of SpiritualityandPractice.com
Read an Excerpt
My life is a listening, His is a speaking.
My salvation is to hear and respond.
IT WAS EARLY FALL, and it was late afternoon, and I was walking through old Carolina pines with a new friend.
We were near the ocean, near enough to hear the surf as we walked along a broad path through the forest.
I say I was with a new friend. I only spent five days with him, and I had never seen him before and have not seen him since. He and I were two of about sixty people at a retreat, and I was the speaker.
“I think I am being called to go to seminary,” my new friend said. “Do you think I am?”
He was wrestling with a question that almost always arises whenever questions of calling are being raised. He was hoping I could tell him if he was being called by God to do a particular thing or if he was wanting to do it for his own reasons and giving God the credit. (Or the blame, perhaps?) He wanted me to look into the future and tell him which choice would be the right one. He was hoping I was a lot more than a speaker; he was hoping I was a prophet.
For a while I did the wisest thing I know to do in such a situation, which is to keep my mouth shut and listen.
We walked for a bit longer, and he talked a little more, and I tried to pay careful attention to the story he was telling me. We stopped for a moment to watch the sea and to listen to the surf.
“Sometimes,” he said, “I cannot tell if it is God telling me this or if I am just talking to myself.”
We watched the sea for a while.
“Exactly what does God’s voice sound like?” I
asked him. “And how do you recognize that voice when you hear it?”
My new friend looked at me as though perhaps he should not be wasting his time with a guy who suddenly did not appear to be so prophetic after all.
I had clever follow-up questions too. “Does God sound like James Earl Jones or Helen Mirren? What if
God sounds like Judi Dench or George Burns? What if God’s voice is shrill and hard to listen to? What if
God sounds like Truman Capote? What if the voice sounds like your own voice?”
These were not unreasonable questions to me on that day and are still not on this day. My new friend looked at me as though I had gone from being not as smart as he had hoped to being a smart aleck instead.
But I had a reason for asking those questions.
People go away on spiritual retreat for all kinds of reasons.
I am one of those people. I think it is a good idea to go away for a while to listen for, and maybe even to,
It was my father who taught me to love going on retreat. He led so many of them that his father once asked him if he should not go on an advance for a change.
I think a retreat can be especially helpful when you are wrestling with some particular thing in your life.
Having a leader or a teacher or a speaker there is a nice bonus, but it is not always the point. As the years go by, I go to fewer and fewer retreats where there is a speaker. Sometimes it is easier to listen for the voice of
God if there is not someone else talking all the time.