Chapter two of Sacred Compass, Quaker J. Brent Bill's book about spiritual discernment, focuses on the Quaker concept of "letting your life speak." In the wider community, we might use the terms "actions speak louder than words" or "walk the walk, don't talk the talk."
Certainly a central tenet of Quakerism is that salvation is more than reciting a creed. To Quakers, how you behave in the world is of utmost significance. This reflects Jesus' statement that many who call him "Lord, Lord" and yet don't follow his teachings will not find their way to the kingdom of heaven.
Brent outlines some ways we can learn to let our lives speak. Most of them involve plugging into our intuitive, rather than our rational, selves. We let our lives speak by learning to be attentive to the signals we receive from our bodies: what are our bodies drawn towards? What makes us tense up? We also learn how to let our lives speak through our stories, our imaginations, our inclinations, our dreams and our opportunties. Essentially, Bill seems to be saying, don't let your head and intellect rule you, but develop a sensitiity to other cues that may be leading you closer to God.
When we are alert to what we are hearing about how God means us to lead our lives, we start to live more authentically and our lives become more congruent with God's will. We speak to the world more from the heart and more through our everyday activities. We listen to God all the time and adjust our smallest actions to reflect our sensitivity to God's compass. We become more like the great spiritual leaders in history in that we are more patient, we pray more, our spirits become more generous and we come to love the (seemingly) unlovely.
The phrase "letting our lives speak" can become an other-focused activity in which we attempt to arrange ourselves outwardly so that we look good to our peers. This can become dangerous, both in that we can become more focused on pleasing others than on pleasing God and because people who may not have a very deep spiritual center can learn how to arrange themselves to look like "patterns" of goodness. It can be very difficult to discern who is a "pattern," because we don't where people have been or how far they have come in their journey,
So I like Bill's focus on getting "letting our lives speak" through getting our internal houses in order. If we focus on aligning ourselves with God and responding to his promptings, our lives will speak to others without our having to worry about it.
Have people's lives spoken to you? How?