15 January 2010

Come with me and I will make you...

"The early Friends were experiencing something so totally new, that it rocked them. It was so big and life-changing that they were willing to die for it, to be tortured, to be put in prison, to have the right to listen expectantly for the voice of Christ and worship together waiting for direction."

Something on this order was said in a committee meeting I attended last week, and it has been with me ever since, dogging me, ripping open my own status quo. The speaker said he doubted he would have the courage those early Friends had, that he was not sure if he would go the distance or quietly leave and go worship in the church the state dictated, were we to be told we had to give up our religion today.

We were talking about how 'milk-toast' Quakers have become compared to our forebears. We were talking about the notion of people who felt so called to ministry that they felt they had no choice but to travel in ministry to others, like the early apostles.

'Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.' They laid down their nets and followed, so powerful was the felt response. Is there anything that speaks so powerfully today?

Then my fellow committee member asked, "What is there that could call us to that kind of strength and devotion today?"

My mind has not been quiet since.

I can say that over the years, I have tried to deny my calling to ministry. Whole years, maybe even a decade have gone by where I was successful, feeling safer and more productive following the cultural norm of career, family, husband, children, house, dogs, car. Once a pastor even said to me, "Maybe your calling is to be a wife and mother," and I sighed relief, left seminary, and put the voice away for a year or more.

But always the inner voice returns, 'You are a minister.'

I confess, I don't even really know what that means. We are all ministers. I want a little more info here, God...just what do you mean by that?

So I have a calling. I'm coming to see that many of us do. The question is whether we listen, and even bigger, what do we do?

And now I'm asking, 'If our government outlawed ministry without a license, would I have the courage to minister?'

What is it that could deliver to me the power to stand up so strongly for what I believe?

Would the destruction of the planet be enough for me to consider taking myself off the grid and living a life that demonstrates simplicity?

Would the war efforts ever become so immoral to me that I would consider facing prison by denying payment of my taxes to a government that has become unethical and power-hungry?

Would ministering to the poor ever become so omnipresent that I would leave my home, give away my possessions and put my life in danger to be of assistance?

I know there are Friends and others who do these things. I know there are people who stand up to power and put their lives in danger. I believe this is something of what the convergent Friends movement is about. I even knew one person who lost his life to his beliefs.

But it is rare in our world. Mostly we are middle-class or more, comfortable, housed, (dare I say it) white, and middle of the road. I am one of you.
Even though I hear that voice calling me to ministry, most of the time I am content to sit in meeting, to do internal things that feed my spiritual need but do not take me out of my comfort zone.

So it was a good thing to have this passing remark rock me.
Now instead of just hearing the voice that says, 'you are a minister,'
I hear: "You are a minister, what are you going to do about it?"

What is it that is powerful enough that it could call you to move beyond your comfort zone and make a life-altering difference in your world?


  1. Dear Linda,

    You are asking the right questions. Don't let up.

    Your friend,

    Micah Bales

  2. Linda, you have given me something to truly reflect on. I too live a comfortable middle-class life. Would I be willing to give it up in the name of justice? Would I be willing to go to jail in order to stand up to the war machine? And when do I say enough injustice is enough and take a stand? I honestly don't know the answer to that. I know people that do and I admire them greatly. But am I all talk and no action? Like I said it is something I truly have to ponder.

  3. Yes, you speak my mind, friend!

  4. Linda,

    I think of the stories I have heard of the many who entered Trappist monasteries in the 1940s and 50s, only to come out a decade later and join the civil rights movement ... first comes spirit, then comes action. Linda, you seem to have the deep stirrings of the spirit and glimpses of a transcendent way of seeing. I think prayer and prayer and Bible reading and more prayer is the answer and you will be guided into those places where you can join God in his work out of not just a concern with hunger or the environment (though that is important) but out of a deep centeredness that is making you a participant not just in the temporary "solving a problem" but in establishing the Kingdom of God.

  5. Linda, thanks for making yourself vulnerable and sharing your questions.

    I have a couple of thoughts you might consider.

    1. Have you read Samuel Bownas' book?

    2. Another book that might more closely speak to your condition (of denying the ministry/gift you've been given) is about early Friend David Ferris, Resistance and Obedience to God. David Ferris also resisted God's call for many years...

    3. If you really find yourself struggling with this call to ministry, I hope you'll reach out to a long-time Friend you trust in your Quaker community...

    4. If these are still unsatisfactory--or generate more fear--let's talk and work together to give you additional support to find out what might be useful. You can email me at lizopp AT gmail DOT com.

    In the meantime, continue to hold yourself and your questions in the Light. Be gentle with yourself and let the questions work on you.

    As Micah says, this is important work you are doing. Any number of Friends have walked this path too. You are not alone.

    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up