I rarely do things half-heartedly. I tend to be committed, intense, focused, passionate. When I attend church I sing the hymns with vim and vigor. I don’t sit in the back acting apathetic or embarrassed. I’m a front-row person.
Which may speak volumes for why I no longer regularly attend LDS services. Because if I can’t wholeheartedly participate, there seems little value in being there. At least for me. Those who knew me as a Mormon can attest to the fact that I was gung-ho and actively involved until I stopped attending. Even when I occasionally return to Mormon events, it is with some fervor–the shared vision of a service activity, the opportunity to support a friend, engaging in the academic study of Mormonism, etc. For me, I was either “drinking the Kool-Aid”, carrying the card, and wearing the garments or not. I saw no middle way of ‘sort of’ being active or ‘sometimes’ keeping the rules. I’m not saying that my way is right for everyone, but it’s just how I am…
However, with Quakerism I have purposefully cultivated a kind of detached involvement. I love worshiping in Meeting, relish time spent with Friends, and support my Quaker community in a wide variety of ways. But I haven’t stepped up to any position of responsibility. Not for lack of desire, but because I felt it important to, for a season, let myself not become too intense and dogmatic about my new faith community. I didn’t want to replace one type of dogma (LDS) with another that would be just as rigid. Rather, I wanted my Quaker participation to unfold more gradually, so that I could experience and test each facet of the tradition as I weighed my own adherence to its traditions and tenets.
This experiment has not been without some level of friction for me. At times I have felt guilty for not committing completely. At times I have felt that I’ve disappointed others. At times I have berated myself for not investing more, for not using more of my abilities to further Quakerism.
But on the other hand…as a Mormon I covenanted all of my time, talents, and resources to building God’s kingdom. I took that oath seriously and continually struggled with any failure to fully serve God and the church. As a Quaker I no longer hold to such binding oaths. I am more in the mode of taking each new day on its own terms. Of not sacrificing so much self at the expense of higher ideals. I focus more on individuals and less on institutional programs. I am still my intense self, but I have a variety of professional and personal outlets for my passions instead of directing them all towards a religion.
This may change over time. I may eventually find myself led to take a greater role in my Quaker community. But for now I enjoy spending more time focused on John and my children. More time in silence. More time writing and contemplating. More time laughing and even playing. I may, perhaps, be enjoying my life just too much–which seems a guilty pleasure, indeed.
But life is such a fleeting gift–it begs such enjoyment! I no longer have the expectation of eternal reward and glory. I only have today and now. And that means that my passion is invested in this moment. This one, right now. There will never be another one just the same, and I don’t want to let it pass me by unremarked or unspent.