Saturday, December 20, 2008

Opening Up

The other day, a Friend asked me why my vocal ministry in meeting is usually so brief, when I seem to have so much to say. I told him that it is physically very difficult for me to stand up and speak, but writing comes much more easily to me. A Friend's story in Walk Worthy of Your Calling spoke to me when she said,
Each time I am invited somewhere to speak, I struggle to get to the inward place where I am willing to be kept stopped up, to be silent or otherwise made a fool of, if that is God's purpose to reach this particular group. (133)
My experience related but opposite. I struggle to get to a place where I am willing to speak, if that is God's purpose to reach the group.

Over the past few months when I have been in meeting, I have prayed that I will be willing to be ridiculous, if that is what God wants. Then I read about how God told Isaiah to walk around naked and barefoot for three years as a lesson to Egypt and Ethiopia (Isaiah 20:1-6). My first thought was, "Please, God, not that ridiculous!"

Earlier this week, Friends held a potluck to welcome me as a sojourning member of University Friends Meeting. Shortly after I arrived, my host asked me quietly how I was doing as the center of attention, which she knows is not my favorite thing. I said that it wasn't easy, but it helped that everyone was talking to each other.

When we sat down to eat, a Friend announced that I had to tell everyone there why I became a Quaker. I hoped he was kidding, but apparently that's their way of being welcoming. I did my best, saying that I became a member because I read the Freedom Friends Church Faith and Practice and agreed with all of it. It really is much easier to explain how I became a Quaker than why. I feel like the only true answer to the question is that I was led, but I don't think that is what they were looking for.

After my stilted and incomplete answer, the others went around the table and shared the experiences that made them want to become a member. It was interesting to hear their stories and I think they enjoyed talking about some of their shared memories.

Then the conversation moved on to other topics, including language and music. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about both language and music, but I stayed pretty quiet, as I tend to do in groups of that size. There were others there who clearly enjoyed talking, so I don't know that anyone really noticed.

Afterward, I had a milder sense of the feeling I get when I have a message in meeting and I do not have the courage to share it, that my heart was not clear. I felt like I was being stingy and taking something away from the gathering by not sharing my responses and stories.

But then I remembered that these were people who gathered to welcome me, and that I am now officially part of their community. Even though I didn't say as much as I could have at the potluck, that was not my last chance. There will be time for us to get to know each other better and I am glad.

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