Sunday, February 7, 2010

my discomfort is my lack of discomfort

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?


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Raye said...

You make a number of good points, that I have observed also.

There have been times when Friends' meetings have taken the responsibility of supporting the families of those called to ministry. That is not now often the case, as far as I am aware.

It seems to me that a willingness, in prayer, to hear the unthinkable helps in our discernment. Move? Work part time? Stop traveling so much?

Without spiritually mature fellowship, it is much much more difficult to make progress, I agree.

Please keep bringing these things forward. They need to be heard, and dealt with.

Linda (haven) said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I've been thinking much along the same lines and just posted on my own blog "Where do you Worship?" which might have more appropriately been titled, "Do you Worship?"

I'm fascinated by the way we have let the least comfortable person guide the level of depth to our worship. Certainly this was not the way of early friends!!

Blessings! Linda

Micah Bales said...

I think that your post speaks to issues that are faced by Friends throughout the Quaker community - and, in truth, by people in any community who seek to be obedient to Christ's guidance.

Keep asking these questions and holding them up to God in prayer. Trust that God will show you the next step, and trust that you are not alone. You are accompanied by many of us who have the same struggles; and, most importantly, you are accompanied by the only one who can speak to our conditions, Christ Jesus.

Your friend in Truth,


Anonymous said...

You have written what was on my mind. I too don't believe we are challenged enough at our Quaker meetings. Quaker worship is supposed to be where we wait, as a group, for the Holy Spirit to come and speak to us. We are to be challenged & not just given pious platitudes by well-meaning Friends.
But I also must admit that I get too comfortable having things just the way they are. I don't want to rock the boat even though I say we sometimes need to speak uncomfortable truths. I like having my own little time with God and not worrying about the spiritual needs of others. I need to change that.

Friendly Mama said...

Certainly there is something to be said to the security and comfort of an unchallenging Meeting for Worship, particularly for one who has turmoil or stress in other areas of life. On the other hand, perhaps having a fully spirituall engaged community would be more ultimately sustaining than an easy, comfortable one. I don't know because I don't have the experience to compare.

I think Micah's right: That those of us who are called to examine our lives and our larger communities should do so. We should break out of what's simply comfortable to allow ourselves to truly grow in Spirit and in community.
Mary Linda

Liz Opp said...

Mary Linda,

I came upon your post at a time when the monthly meeting where I worship was reflecting on where we find ourselves, now that it's been a few years without an active Peace & Social Action Committee.

Some things were stirred in me that morning that I could not give voice to at the time, such as how I wanted to caution Friends that we would have to become willing to be uncomfortable, to take on a new identity in order to pick up new activities...

Reading your post affirmed some of what I had been carrying, and I've written about it here.

Glad you are able to share your own experience, even if it is only every now and then.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Quakedown said...

Thanks for your post, Friendly mama. Perhaps you could be 'hungrymama.' Spiritually hungry. This is a good thing, to be hungry in this way. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I'm not entirely sure what 'poor in spirit' means. I know what poor in money means. I had to join a prayer group where people are more active in trying to connect with God. It's easy to flounder in a Quaker Mtg. The fire burns down to a warm ember that we crowd around and try to warm our hands. I dont know why that is. Maybe because so much is left up to us. This is the strength and challenge, or weakness of Quaker worship and community. I need my cup filled. That's why I go to a prayer group. They are Church Christians. However, I see things there that bother me too. There is no perfect fit. Talking helps, reading helps, sitting and praying or worshipping is best, but is hard for me when I'm empty. Every now and again tho, dont you feel your heart touched and inspired? It is such momments that keep me going.