7/12/2008

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 NIV Study Bible

And he was in the desert forty days being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:13 NIV Study Bible

I have been trying to attend to my spiritual needs more lately. It is hard. I allow myself to get pulled in too many directions and have a hard time saying ‘no’ especially when other people need something. I had a leading last August that I needed to start volunteering with a local Friends organization…and well, it is July now and I just sent the volunteer application in. So I am moving at a different pace than maybe the Lord would like to see. I have wanted to go to meeting more often for the last year or so yet still only make it maybe once a month. I know this is the direction I need to go in; to return to my spiritual home. But reincorporating it into my life seems difficult. But I feel the pull clearly…when I let myself.

A series of events recently had me thinking, again, on why it is that so many young adult Friends seem to drift away…I have many lines of thought on this phenomenon. Currently, I am pondering how it is that few of my year in QLSP are actively involved with Friends. Some are definitely, for example one of us is a pastor now. Some are slowly being drawn into projects in the larger society. Some of us do work that has some meaningful benefit to society and that work is tied to our spiritual beliefs. But I started to contemplate how it is that individuals from other parts of my Quaker life are more actively involved in the SOF then my QLSP friends. I think back on the unspoken currents of trying to “out Quaker” each other or those “super-Quakers” among us and if some how that un-quakerly attitude has attributed to some of us departing on another path rather than one serving the larger SOF. I don’t have answers or even any idea if what I just said is grounded in a reality that others experience.

Mainly, this is my attempt to say, “I am still here.” I think it has become clear that I need to make my way out of my personal desert and come back to the fold. It may take time but I am starting that journey—again.

Lapses and forgettings are so frequent. Our surroundings grow so exciting. Our occupations are so exacting. But when you catch yourself again, lose no time in self-recriminations, but breathe a silent prayer for forgiveness and begin again, just where you are. Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion.

3 comments:

Heather said...

This speaks to my condition, James - I'm so glad to hear you're on the road back.

Martin Kelley said...

When I worked at FGC I can say that they used the Guilford and Earlham programs as a kind of "rent a token young Quaker" service. When they wanted some bright young thing they'd call up Max Carter or Michael Birkle and place an order. Sorry to sound so cynical but it was clear that if you weren't part of those programs--or the son or daughter of a well-known committee Quaker--then you didn't get invited to things. That left out 99% of young Friends of course, and I can probably count the exceptions on one hand. Every couple of years the "future of Quakerism" cast changes as the rosy cheeks of youth fade on the old group.

I've seen the stress of that Super-Quaker imperative and I sometimes actually feel sad when I hear some interesting young Friend is going into some uber-Quaker program. If they have a blog I know it will dry up. I know they'll go silent with any interesting critiques they've been wrestling with to pose for annual report. I'm glad these programs exist, of course, but by themselves they're just feeding the weird generational power dynamics within the rsof.

For what it's worth, independent YAF groups can just materialize out of nowhere. I saw that happen at Central Philadelphia meeting ten years ago. I'd go every month or so hoping to connect with someone and never really succeeding. At one point I feel really led to attend every week and unbeknownst to me a couple of other YAFs had just started attending every week. Pretty soon the whole thing snowballed as we brought all the occasional YAFs in. It wasn't all just a youth fest of course, but the social part gave us an anchor that brought us into the life of the meeting. Unfortunately it didn't go very deeply spiritual and self-destructed within five years. But I still get people contacting me out of the blue from those years, it meant a lot to the people involved.

I'm not sure how to address the larger drift problem. I overstayed my welcome and was shown the door. Most of my friends who drifted away still look back in from time to time. If things started to shift it's possible to imagine some of them becoming involved again. But I don't know what that would take. At this point I just try to be faithful to the cloudy instructions I'm given and trusting that God has a plan.

Rob Fensom said...

Now I now why I was fatening that calf , come home and we shall all be happy. I too have strayed and am now journying back, and it feels good to be on the right track.