By Chelsea Stanton
I love fortune cookies. Honestly, though, I could do without the cookie part: what I really want is the little slip of paper hidden inside. They feel like tiny premonitions, surrounded by sugar (a method Mary Poppins would approve). A few that sit taped to my alarm clock read: “You have a charming way with words and should write a book,” “You tend to have deeper thoughts than you are able to express to others,” and best of all “Others enjoy your radiance.”
I think what I really want is a little slip of paper to give me a one-sentence answer to all the difficulties in my life. Or maybe several little slips of paper dropped down from Jaarsma’s almond cakes at just the right moments. For some reason, I expect my deepest truths to be given me from outside. I don’t trust myself to weigh the drawings and differences I feel every day and collect them into something meaningful and accepting. The task of discovering my life’s purpose seems too important to leave with someone clumsy and stumbling like me.
As a super introverted person, the most interesting and intense things in my life happen inside my head, where only God and I hang out. I’m beginning to see this—my mind, my consciousness, this place between my ears?—as a sacred space.
Parker Palmer, in his book Let Your Life Speak, writes: “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live—but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.”
I now see that my sacred head-space doesn’t need fortunes imposed from outside, despite the church-y and societal rules layered over who I am. Rather, I must respect what happens on the couches in my head where God and I sit together and listen to my life. My vocation becomes more clear, now that I’m listening.
So, my vocation thus far, according to my life: to practice reconciliation across race, class, and gender lines; to seek and serve Christ in every person; to offer presence, hospitality, and a listening ear; to cultivate what Henri Nouwen calls “free and friendly spaces” where truth and love can be shared without fear.
In short, to live in and cultivate sacred space.