I recently watched a video in which Traci Hjelt Sullivan, a Quaker in Philadelphia, shares about her experience of speaking in meeting for worship. I was fascinated by her description of how she felt compelled to share a message during a time of silent worship. She talks about being nudged, and having a sense of what she is supposed to do. She describes beautifully the sheer terror of standing up in a room of silent worshipers and beginning to speak, or sing.
I can relate to Traci’s description of feeling compelled to undertake a form of service that is uncomfortable. I’ve experienced many times when there was something that I did not want to do, but felt clear that God was calling me to do it. Despite my reservations and hangups, if I want to be faithful I must yield to the motion of the Spirit in my heart. I have to submit myself to God’s leading and take action, whether I like it or not.
Something that surprised me in this video interview was that Traci never directly mentions God. She talks about encountering a struggle to be faithful. Faithful to what? She describes being repeatedly nudged to give spoken ministry. Nudged by whom? She expresses a sense of what she was supposed to do. Who is it that inspires her to take risky action, despite all her doubts?
I don’t know how Traci would answer these questions. (I hope she sees this post and comments!) What I do know is that her experience matches my own in so many ways; yet, I was disappointed that she did not take the opportunity to explicitly acknowledge the amazing life and power that calls her to faithfulness. The Holy Spirit is real – alive, active, and moving in our lives. I see every indication that Traci knows this from personal experience. Why not say it directly?
I know that this is awkward. We live in a culture that is increasingly skeptical of God talk, and it can feel less intimidating to refer to our experience in ambiguous language that dodges the question of who God is. But how can we share the good news of the living Christ if we are not even able to say his name?
For me, it is crucial that I be explicit about who I’m being faithful to, who is nudging me, who is spurring me to risky faithfulness. I cannot share the gift if I do not acknowledge the Giver. Is it possible for us as Quakers to be faithful to our Advocate and Friend without saying her name?