I hear people say they are convinced Friends. When does this happen? How does that work? I've been waiting for it to happen to me but how will I know? Is there some kind of ecstasy as you realize you are finally home? Is it gradual and comfortable? Perhaps there is some kind of telltale popping sound (ka-plock) as your soul suddenly, for the first time, fits.
I took the goofy Internet test that said I was a Quaker. I have studied the history of Friends seriously for some time now first as a part of my academic work and then privately because I could not get enough. I obsessively read blogs, articles, books, commentaries...I have attended a Friends' meeting for almost a year now. I am ready to concede that intellectally, culturally, behaviorally, I can "pass" as a Friend...
But I resist. "No, no. I'm not falling in love! I'm too sensible a person to leap headlong into a new community, into a faith community (Good God!). This is an academic interest, nothing more." But while my brain spins rationalizations, in my heart I know this is a conversion experience. And I'm terrified that this is a conversion experience because I'm too logical for conversion experiences! So I dangle here on the edge of convincement clinging to my rationalizations with white knuckles.
Sometimes I maintain that I am not convinced because others have not convinced me that this is the best path for me. I tell myself that perhaps my spirituality is too independent, too large to be contained within a "label." But you know, I think that my real fear is that others will see me as a "poser" and that they will laugh me out of the meetinghouse. That is what I fear whenever I speak either when moved to do so in meeting for worship or in meetings for business and Quaker 101 gatherings. I am afraid that others will hear me and say to each other on the way out, "Who the hell does she think she is?"
How can this fear be healthy? Well, I don't know but I know that the fear exists and that something in me has decided that it was time to move beyond my individualistic search for spiritual fulfillment and move toward a community. I am willing to exist with this fear which shows me that I may be ready for a community. But oh! what a pain a community can be! I have ranted all the way home from some meetings, "I don't need this!" But all of us must labor in pain to bring forth new life, right?
I have intellectualized my spirituality in recent years as I have jumped through academic hoops. At some point in that process, I began to objectify the process and to demand that it conform to rational arguments. I learned to discount my experience when I could not explain it (as if I was ever clever enough to truly explain spirituality!)
But now I must ask myself, Who calls this individualistic non-theistic Pagan to meet with Friends? Who calls me to speak? Who gave me my calling when I was a child and has driven me ever since? What Love compels me to move past my fears to share so deeply with these strangers? Do I really have to explain it or justify it? Can't I just let it happen?
Will I continue to be distrustful and suspicious in the midst of this great gift? As the Light shines in my life do I really wish to keep my eyes shut tight muttering, "I don't believe it. I won't believe it! And it is all their fault anyway!"