Sunday, August 30, 2009

In the Hands of the Lord: Becoming A Released Young Adult Friend

On Sunday NY Yearly Meeting convened to begin our weeklong session. While sitting in Meeting on Sunday at the opening Meeting for worship this message came to me. I was drawn to give special thanks to those who work for NY Yearly Meeting full time and for every other Quaker organization in the country. I am reminded that for me it is a particularly scary concept to dedicate ones entire life and time to God’s calling. I, who am plagued by doubts and questions about what it is God calls me to do within the Religious Society of Friends, have a hard time imagining a calling so strong that one would give up other options of jobs and life styles to dedicate themselves to the workings of our religious society and community. I personally always wonder and worry if I chose a life focused entirely on my religious community my other gifts and my other callings to work in other communities would be lost. On the other hand I sometimes wonder if I hide behind other things I do, as a way of escaping what God is calling me to do, because it scares me.

I thank God that there are people with the strength, wisdom and courage to make that choice to become “full-time Quakers” as it where. Yet I remind myself that God’s callings are often frightening and not easy. Religion especially Quakerism is not easy and often frightening. Too often I think we let ourselves think of Quakerism as an easy safe thing. We sometimes forget that in its demand that we all open ourselves to God and dedicate every facet of our lives to Her grace and glory, Quakerism is the very antithesis of safe and easy.

My prayer for myself and NY Yearly Meeting would be that we do not loose sight of the fact that ours is a strong, rich, powerful, living, demanding, frightening, enlightening and beautiful faith. We must not be afraid of doing what is hard or spiritually frightening. God often calls us to move out of the space we feel comfortable and walk a hard and sometimes dangerous road. I hope that we all listen for, discern and except our leadings as God gives them to us, no matter what they might be. Even if they scare us. Let us all be open to the Spirit, to move among us. Make us a vessel of Your light and Your will. We must trust that God loves us, watches over us and will not lead us astray. No matter how huge a jump God seems to be requiring of us, She is always there protecting us and making sure we come down where we need to be. We must trust God knows the path, even if we don’t, and that is the most frightening thing of all, and also the most joyful and beautiful.

I am reminded of a passage from Paul. Paul new what it meant to be called by God to do what he thought he could not do. When God called Paul, God called him to go against everything he had previously believed, everything he had been taught, everything he valued, everything he defined himself as, everything his community and his family defined themselves as. God called Paul to do what he had previously believed would be impossible for him to do. Paul knew the power of the Spirit of God, and knew how it can shape, reshape and set afire your life when you surrender to it. Paul writes in Second Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom” and I believe that. I believe that.

I wrote this message two years ago during Summer Sessions of New York Yearly Meeting. I find it particularly interesting and moving today, as I face a commitment I have made to live as a released Friend, a full-time Quaker, in fact. Two years ago I could not have imagined setting aside my other gifts and ambitions to dedicated myself fully to God and my religious community. Today the idea still terrifies me, and seems too big, too complicated and too much like something I might need to be a people-person to do.

I first heard about the Young Adult Friends In Residence program when it was first conceived roughly five years ago. At the time I couldn’t imagine it would be anything I was interested in doing. Mostly because when it was first imagined it was imagined to be a program that focused exclusively on youth work, an area I have never been gifted at. Since then Young Adult Friends In Residence has become much more then a youth program, now it also includes spiritual nurture and spiritual growth work as well as a deeper understand about what it means to live in religious community. I applied to it about two to three years ago when no one really knew when or if it could happen.

Even this spring whether or not the program would happen seemed touch and go, but as of this summer it pulled together. Through divine influence we got a dedicated host meet, a house, support of the Yearly Meeting, funding, and three willing interns.

Now suddenly, I am a full-time Quaker, and if all things go according to plan I will be so for the next two years. I did not, nor do I take this decision lightly. I have been discerning God’s will in this decision for almost six months both by myself and with a clearness committee. Through that time I became clear to me that since I have now graduated from college the time had come to dedicated myself fully to my religious community and my own spiritual growth. I will have an Elder, and an anchor committee to work with me through this. Yet I have done what seemed two years ago to be so unimaginably scary. It’s a huge step for me, and I pray for faithfulness everyday. I pray to be as faithful as the other released Friends I have known.

I know that I am doing Christ’s work and Christ’s will in this, and I trust that I will be loved, cared for and that I will not be led astray. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom”(Second Corinthians 3:17) I still believe that.