Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Open Letter to My Meeting

The two hemispheres of my waking life are diametrically opposite. Finding intersection in my work can be managed, even as I notice the contradictions. The feminist and activist side of me wants to shake the world out of its complacency. Feminist discourse can be incredibly forceful, sometimes to the point of being hurtful. My audience is comprised of women who seek to prove that they can be as tough and as flinty as a man. I respect their desire to challenge gender roles and establish an egalitarian society where sex and gender no longer exist in their current form, even when I think that the voices of some are too strident, too quick to find fault.

The peace-loving Quaker side of me could not be more different. My Utopian vision would have us speak to each other with love and compassion, while not reducing these words to a kind of unsatisfying mush. I see the limitations of getting caught up in the moment, feeling that anger is somehow a desired state or is empowering. At the same time, the other half of me sees a potential for complacency in everyone. I’m a relatively young person and I have the temperament and good breeding of a born reformer. I hope I will always be progressive at heart.

My methods and my reasons are mystifying to some. I am a problem, a person who needs to be watched cautiously. My activist streak might take this as a something of a badge of honor. Deviating from the norm is my life’s work, you might say. I’m aware of this disconnect, but offer up my life’s work as evidence. I never believed that any gains made in advancing the world forward would be easy or without hardship. I’d rather stay chronically unsatisfied than be content with a half-baked and half-finished sense of purpose and moral compass.

You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.- Matthew 10:22

I have consistently challenged the Meeting to live up to its potential and will continue to do so. It is easy to feel satisfied with the gains one has made, but room for improvement is always present. My own restless spirit cannot be confined and as the Holy Spirit inspires me, I seek for it to guide me. My aim has never been for personal attack, even when I am knee-deep in the middle of it almost every single day. Knife-fighting in the comment section is where I live, for better or for worse, and I will admit that being around it as often as I do does make an impact.

I began this journey and this leading six years ago, and I have never deviated from it. I bow my head to say my prayers at night, as I have done since I was a child. And as I do, I recall my first vocal ministry delivered upon arrival in my new home. It had me say something nebulous and unsatisfactory about hypocrisy. In any case, I’ve forgotten it completely. All I know is that it didn’t seem to make much impact upon presentation.

Even a masterstroke of rhetorical genius like the Gettysburg Address appeared to land with a resounding thud upon first presentation. Abraham Lincoln acknowledged only a smattering of applause after he was finished talking and was seated, remarking to the person next to him that, in his words, “I’m afraid this plow won’t scour.” Or, in other words, he was convinced at first that the speech had not gone well. But upon further consideration, observers saw the brilliant economy of words and simplicity contained therein. Before long, it became a classic.

I don’t, of course, seek to compare myself in any way, shape, or fashion to Lincoln. But I wonder sometimes upon being seated after a vocal ministry whether my own personal plow scours. Total certainty of this fact would not be a true leading. God does not always agree with me but be it know that I do follow God’s will in ways that I know will require a great amount of intestinal fortitude. I am quite serious about this. This is true for every area of the Meeting in which I have involved myself directly, from committee service to Young Adult Friends. I can’t know everyone and wouldn't pretend to, but I do know where I need to be.

It needs to be said that a challenge is not a personal attack. Everyone is sensitive to particular subjects and our buttons can be pushed without much difficulty. If we talked to each other more forthrightly, there would be minimal misunderstandings. I think we can do that. I am appreciative for those who have spoken to me with kindness and who I look forward to speaking with and working with on a regular basis. This is my desire and my constant plea.

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