If you have been reading my posts, you will find that a reoccurring theme is my struggle to understand when and if I am called. And if called – what to do about it. I understand – in my head at least – that a calling usually becomes clear only in retrospect. And that as we travel on our journey, our paths only become clear a few steps at a time.
One thing about the Quakers that I like a lot is the pragmatic approach to this idea of a calling…or a Leading in Quaker parlance. If you think God is calling you, then begin acting on the call. If doors open for you, keep walking through them. If doors close to you, perhaps it is time for deeper discernment. That’s it.
Sandra Cronk in her book Learning to Listen states it better than do I when she says “The heart of the matter is living a life in a listening relationship with God and being obedient to God’s leadings.”
We have a very real example of this that comes from the bible in the book of Acts 5: 34-42. Here is the story. Christ has been crucified and his resurrection has been witnessed by many. The apostles are emboldened and begin preaching publically about Christ risen and performing miracles. The High Priest had them arrested, but they escaped through divine intervention and continued their public ministry. The High Priests had the apostles again arrested and brought before them. When the Priests saw that the apostles were full of the spirit and were not about to back down and stop proclaiming the news of the risen Christ, they wanted to have them killed.
And here is where Gamaliel steps in and creates what I have now begun to call the Gamaliel Test. Gamaliel was a highly regarded Pharisee. He stepped forward and warned the High Priests to proceed with caution. He reminded them that a fellow named Theudas came along and had a growing following but when he was killed, his following went away. The same was true for Judas the Galilean; when he was killed, his followers were dispersed. He then said:
My advice is that you have nothing to do with these men. Let them alone. If their purpose is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them without fighting God himself.
That seems pretty clear and in line with how my Quaker friends address the sense of God’s Call: Pray & Discern • Act • Watch for God’s gifts to unfold.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.