As a Quaker, I’ve often been told that I’m supposed to be in the world, but not of it. I always thought I knew what that meant. But lately I’m not so sure.
My life has been getting a lot more worldly lately. There’s a career that demands attention, a house that requires maintenance, and a 4-month-old baby who doesn’t seem to understand my need for peace and quiet!
The work that I fill my days with is wonderful, but it’s very different from the dedicated, full-time gospel ministry I envisioned for myself even a few years ago. I’m finding dynamic collaboration with an incredible diversity of people that I simply wasn’t encountering before, back when I lived almost entirely within the Quaker bubble. I’m expanding my horizons and building new relationships.
I still have a lot to learn about how to lead this new lifestyle faithfully. The values of the Quaker/Christian community are different from those of the wider culture. Some of these differences are really excellent. For example, I’m learning how to speak plainly about my values and experience, without resorting to Quaker jargon!
Still, it’s easy for me to get caught up in a whole new set of assumptions, the popular wisdom that’s all around me. The wider culture has its own ideas about what and who is valuable, what integrity consists of, and how the game is played. It’s easy to unquestioningly conform to these assumptions. I can get so scared of not fitting in that I forget who I am as a friend of Jesus.
Taken as a whole, though, I think that my ministry is benefiting from my full engagement with the surrounding culture. I’m grateful for the opportunity to escape the Quaker bubble and get a new vantage point. I’m seeing how many of the assumptions of the Quaker community were trapping me before. The church can be its own special kind of echo chamber.
Now more than ever, I want to recommit myself to non-conformity to any human set of assumptions, whether religious or secular. I want to choose life – the unbounded, abundant life that refuses to conform to anything but the character of Jesus Christ. I want to be fully human, not a cookie cutter replica of a good Quaker, a good communications professional, or any other box that I’m tempted to put myself into.
I’m not sure what this means yet. It seems really hard to stay unconformed, to be in the world but not of it. I think it’s going to involve approaching each day and situation with a commitment to faithfulness. I will commute, change diapers, prepare sermons, work my job, and celebrate with my friends in the way of Jesus.
Somehow, in the midst of all this confusion, I’m hearing an invitation to be fully human. How about you?