For the past few years I have been speaking at the graduation ceremonies which we hold for our philosophy majors. It felt right to start doing this, has felt right to continue doing it but recently I began to feel that I should lay it down (at least for now.) I had been pondering just how I would tell my chair that I didn’t want to do this anymore, and thinking to myself that I’d really have to do it one more time until I could work something out. Then I get an email from my chair telling me that someone else had come to him and volunteered to do the talk. I smiled as I read the tone that suggested he was a bit concerned that I would be hurt or offended that someone else was taking over the job.
Real leadings are specific and respect our very finite capacities in a very large world. I don’t think that any of us are lead to reverse global warming, end war, create social justice or anything so big as that. Instead we are lead to do our own little part. And when we have done what we are called to do it is nice to get closure. Having an opportunity to serve suddenly open and then a month, a year or a decade later having it close again just as suddenly provides a reassuring sense of “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I have observed that too many Quakers wander around with a sense of guilt that they have not done enough. As Christians we are not supposed to feel that way. We are supposed to feel utterly free in our obedience. Our yoke is supposed to feel light. If the yoke feels hard and the burden heavy this might be because it’s one you have picked up at your own discretion and not at the prompting of the Spirit. Such guilt feelings can drive these Friends into badgering and hectoring others with calls that they should “do more.” When Friends feel the urge to nag other Friends in this manner they should pause and reflect and seek the guidance of weighty Friends about whether it is a genuine prophetic call to witness to a stiff-necked people or whether it is only a bit of well-intentioned do-goodery.
I am suffering from a cold at the moment, exams are looming and I am feeling delighted to have this particular little duty gently lifted from my shoulders. I know that some time in the near future Way will open again and I will see some new job with my name on it. But right now I feel like a little celebration.