Sunday, August 30, 2009


I watched the movie Amazing Grace a few months ago, after several friends recommended it to me ("It has Quakers!"). The movie tells the story of William Wilberforce, a young Member of Parliament who spent years fighting to abolish slavery in England. It is an inspiring story and the movie is quite good, but one thing kept bothering me after I watched it.

The bad guys were right.

The main opposition to Wilberforce were other Members of Parliament who argued that Great Britain would not be able to maintain its empire if it abolished the slave trade. We all know how it ends: England abolished slavery. It was the right thing to do, but ultimately they did lose the empire.

In a few weeks, I will be going to North Carolina for the first residency of the School of the Spirit program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer. Part of the program is meeting once a month with a care committee from my meeting. Over the past year, I have met periodically with a support and accountability committee. I am very grateful that they agreed to continue on as my care committee for this program, with one addition.

The care committee met for the first time last week. We talked about my hopes and fears in starting this program and our expectations for the care committee. We also talked about the tension I feel between my ministry and my paid work.

As a bright, young lawyer, I feel a lot of pressure to focus on my career. But instead of doing the things I think people expect me to do, I am making choices that allow me to do the things I feel called to do. From a career standpoint, my choices don't make a lot of sense.

I wonder, how much are we willing to give up to do the things God is calling us to do? Am I willing to give up money and prestige? Am I willing to accept that others might be disappointed and that I may feel like I am letting them down? Am I really willing to look like a fool by doing the things I think God is calling me to do?

I feel like so many Friends in the U.S. live comfortably in our empire while saying we want social change. But are we really willing to give up our comfort for our convictions? Are we ready to stop feeling smug and really give everything we have for the change we want to see in the world? What would that world look like?


  1. Ashley, I followed your FB post here and wanted to comment about your fears and convictions. It does take a big step of faith to leave some of your "comforts" behind but do those comforts give one sustaining satisfaction? When life ends will you ask is there more to life than this? I think you are tackling some important questions right now and I commend you for it. I will pray for your wisdom in discerning what God wants for you. You can still follow your profession without compromising your values & convictions it just requires a lot of study and soul searching not just for now but for the rest of your life.

  2. Hi Ashley

    What led you to become a lawyer in the first place?

    I know many different lawyers among NPYM and NWYM Friends. Perhaps some focused inquiry among them about their career choices and their faith would shed helpful light on choices for you as well.

    I think being a lawyer is honorable work and responsible stewardship of some kinds of gifts. I also think it is possible both to cling to decent principles and to work in ways that allow one the flexibility and other opportunities to explore and develop one's other leadings. (I also know an assortment of unhelpful lawyer jokes if the rest of this sounds too serious.)

    Oddly enough I have a parallel equivocation. I am one oral exam away from being a certified court interpreter. Some of the time, finishing this excites me; some of the time I have many stops. Tonight I was reading a flyer about safety and security for court interpreters. One can live in an empire and still face malevolent people; similarly, some of the mechanisms of security practices really do protect people and it is a sobering exercise to pick through these points in different situations.

    Again good wishes in your discernment.

    If you have leadings in other specific directions, there might be other organizations or paths that would use your legal expertise as well.

  3. Kay - Thank you for visiting and for commenting! I did not mean to suggest that I was planning on giving up all comforts. I think that a lot of people give things up just because they think it's a good idea, not because it is something they feel called to do. Thank you for praying for me. I feel like I am in a time of transition and I really appreciate the reminder that this will be an ongoing process.

    Rantwoman - I have different answers to the question of why I went to law school at different times. I went because I wanted to help people, because I care about human rights and the rule of law, because I did not want to teach, and because I wasn't sure what else to do. Since graduation, I have found myself talking people out of going to law school unless they have a better idea of what they want to do afterward than I did.

    Thank you for sharing your experience of discernment about being a court interpreter. It helped to remember how something can seem right at times, with stops at other times.

    As for lawyer jokes, my dad is a lawyer too, so I've heard more than I ever wanted!

  4. you ask many good questions.

    i bet you know the answers!

    travel well.

  5. Parise - I find that when I start looking for answers, I just end up with more questions!

  6. Hey Ashley, I really like this post - and I feel like I missed something. Didn't know you were doing this School of the Spirit thing - sounds cool!
    Anyway, I know about your feeling of 'career vs calling.' Before library school I came to a point where I didn't know if I wanted to do that or focus on "something Quaker," whatever that would mean. With the help of a clearness committee I came to see that I could do both, somehow. Or at least focus on one now, one later. Or something like that. =)
    So I did library school, but I never did as much extra studying and extra involvement like my classmates. And I've continued to feel that my leadings are more important than my job. (Especially now since I don't have a job!) There is a part of society that whispers to me what sort of job I should get, how much money I should be making, what safety feels like, how I should climb the corporate ladder, etc. And I'm not good enough if I don't do those things. But I feel pretty uninterested in those things. There's part of me that feels like maybe I'm a failure if I don't use my degree for those things - but most of me knows that if I follow my leadings/callings I'll be so much happier (and all those career-minded folks might wish, just a little, that they were in my shoes.)
    So I say: follow all those seemingly senseless callings! =)

  7. Aimee - Don't worry, you didn't miss anything. Although I have been in discernment about the School of the Spirit program for quite a while, this is the first time I mentioned it on my blog. It is good to hear that you feel similarly about leadings and career and I think you're right about career-minded people secretly wishing they were in your shoes!


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