Please don't get me wrong here--I'm very happy to be a Friend. I find comfort and community, spiritual guidance and support in Nashville Friends Meeting and through the Quaker blog-o-sphere. I know I sound critical of Friends a lot. I am, because I don't believe we are living up to our potential. I think too many of us want our meetings for worship to be a place of comfort, not challenge. Too many of us hide behind our sensitivity with religion in general and don't want to be part of anything that seems might force us out of what we perceive to be safe; we don't want our spiritual life to be directed or our motives and actions to be questioned. Our messages inspire, rarely challenge.
My discomfort is my lack of discomfort. I need to be challenged. I need to grow in Christ and I don't think that's gonna happen when the only messages are the "rah, rah we're enlighten Quakers" and "save the trees" and "I listened to a story on NPR this morning" kind of messages. Obviously, I don't want folks going all hells-fire-and-brimstone on everybody but I do need a spiritual community that KNOWS me and holds me accountable and challenges me to live according to the Light given me.
One thing is that I think a lot of us are Quakers first and Christians second (or whatever we call our connection with God. I don't mean to imply that all Quakers must be Christian). We "worship" together in the manner of Quakers in the comfort of the silence almost as if we worship the silence. We come together and sit and pray or meditate or fidget or whatever and once in a while the silence deepens and there is a true sense of Spirit in our midst but mostly it seems we're happy with an hour of quiet. We don't seem to really be expecting Spirit to show up, like the word worship is a token.
I think partly, this is because we let the comfort of the least, um, rooted of us set the overall depth for everyone. Being spiritually centered takes work. The few times I was really in a state of being aware of living in God, I wasn't working at a job, I was writing these kinds of essays regularly and I was part of a small group of people meeting regularly to check in with one another about where God was in our lives. It takes constancy and discipline and, to some extent, a community of people who support one another in order for any of us to have the spiritual energy to support and spiritually motivate the rest of us.
Dang. So how do we light a fire when we all have jobs and responsibilities that pour water on our longing toward God? How do we allow ourselves to grow in Christ when we don't have the time to really live as we are called to do? Jesus said to drop everything and follow. But I've got kids and a mortgage. If I were part of a more mainstream religious tradition, maybe I'd be called to be a missionary and my church would finance my life for me but I'm not. Maybe my disappointment is with myself that I have never seemed to be able to balance my spiritual life with working well at a full-time job. I don't know how to change that. These are the householder years and I have responsibilities of family that I must attend to. I know God will wait until I'm ready but I need more than putting my spiritual self on hold until Carmac's an adult or until I learn to balance life/work/spirit. Again, if my spiritual community were larger and more dynamic, maybe there'd be better support. But that support is often hierarchical which runs counter to what is right for me. What's this friendlymama to do?