THE ECHO WITHIN: Finding Your True Calling
THE ECHO WITHIN reminds me of Parker Palmer’s LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK, in which the writer presents his own spiritual and vocational journey with broader implications for readers hoping to discern God’s will for them or their place in the grand scheme of things.
Benson’s book is very personal in a broad-stroke kind of way. As the narrative unfolds, he summarizes his life story --- particularly past alienations and perceived failures --- several times, cutting it various ways. But in doing so, he gives relatively few specific details other than by recounting significant conversations with a colleague, a stranger or a friend. His late father, author and music publisher Bob Benson, plays a kindly but rarely quoted role; the book is framed by scenes of father and son (aged 10 and later, as a teen) walking --- no noted dialogue --- through the parking lot of the Benson printing plant in downtown Nashville. And in one intervening chapter, Benson, aided by a friend’s discerning comment, makes peace with his father’s premature but anticipated death by cancer. “I was even the guy who handled the ‘come and say good-bye to Bob Benson’ schedule,” Benson writes. “And in the end, he did not even say good-bye to me.”
This is Benson’s story. Though he also gives retreats and addresses on spiritual formation, he identifies himself as “a writer.” His vocational discussion --- his journey --- will most clearly resonate with readers, of any age, who are in the arts and/or those who hear the proverbial beat of a “different drummer.”
And yet there is something here for everyone, glimpses of a universal application: Listen to and for your heart’s desire. “I know a farmer in Mississippi who will get tears in his eyes talking about the rich earth in the Delta… I know a chef who likes his work because he gets to play with knives and fire all day.” And notice what God-sent voices your spirit resonates with. “The Voice that calls us can also be heard without us as well as within us.” Personally I found insight in a paragraph advising that one not only keep a journal but also re-read old journals once a year to identify recurrent and telling life themes.
There is not a lot of direct God-talk in THE ECHO WITHIN, and yet God is underlying all of Benson’s prose, from the first page to the last.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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