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Cutting Loose

Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 at 12:09PM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in | Comments5 Comments

Yesterday I gave notice to my employer, a Midwestern department store chain where I’ve been working as a salesman this past year and a half. I told them that I’ll be leaving after May 5.

It was hard to do. I’ve enjoyed the work — I sell men’s suits. It’s a position in which I have served, and befriended, some of the richest and most powerful men in Omaha, as well as a great many of the struggling poor. I’ve heard my customers’ life stories, soothed their fears about upcoming job interviews, offered them comfort in their bereavements, taught many of them how to dress, and tossed in an occasional spiritual nugget to boot. Putting men in dress clothes is a bit like being their barkeep or their barber; they put themselves in your hands, and it opens up doors..

I doubt I’ll be offered my job back on my return. Not that I’m particularly unpopular with my management, but department stores do tend to regard their salespeople as freely interchangeable cogs..

I began saying farewell to my co-workers, many of whom I’ve grown very fond of indeed, and to my regular customers, some of whom looked rather distressed at the news. One dear co-worker worried that I’ll let my beard grow out on the walk! I didn’t have a chance to answer, but I intend to promise her that I will not..

I’ve traveled in the ministry before, though I haven’t done so in a decade and a half. Because the organizations under whose oversight I’ve traveled have not believed in hireling priests (one of our finer Quaker testimonies, that!), most times I’ve traveled it’s meant not only giving up the security of life at home, but also giving up the security of long-term employment. This has had the effect of making me feel quite naked and vulnerable..

Today I feel oh-so-naked. Oh-so-vulnerable..

There’s a sense I have that when we render ourselves naked and vulnerable in this way, we remove the roof that normally cuts us off from Heaven. We not only let in the rain; we let in the Sun. We humans are made by God to be social creatures, creatures rooted in community, and that is really what we should be. But the communities we are part of are nice enough to let us fall asleep. By giving up our security, we wake ourselves back up, and as we wake, new sensitivities and capabilities enter into us..

In my youth, when I traveled in the ministry, and my sense of nakedness and vulnerability had opened me to the maximum, and I then met with some genuinely God-hungry soul, we both experienced God’s presence far more powerfully than normally happened to either of us. Words were sometimes given us, more apt and penetrating than any we could possibly have found on our own. The words given sometimes produced profound life-changes in one or the other of us. The situations I found myself in all felt like teachings to me..

These experiences gave me what I think is a valid glimpse of the purpose behind Christ’s instructions when he sent out his disciples: that they take no purse for the journey, no staff to protect themselves, and no spare clothing. (Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:3-4) Surely he was aiming at inducing that same sense of nakedness and vulnerability, so as to open them up to the power of the Divine..

And interestingly enough, I’d forgotten all about the way in which that sense of nakedness and vulnerability affects me, until after I’d resigned my position at the store. And then suddenly it swept over me — I remembered everything.

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Reader Comments (5)

I’m not sure whether this would skirt to close to hireling-ness, but perhaps you could in an unobtrusive way inform your readers of how they might support your ministry…?

Be well,

-- comment posted by Zach Alexander, the seed lifting up
April 20, 2006 at 3:56 p.m.

Sep 1, 2006 at 10:56PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
I came for a visit after you posted on my blog.

What I found here was a quiet sense of calling for travelling ministry — something missing from our YM. Instead we initiate programs and projects to accomplish the same thing.

I hope the earth speaks to you in deep places.

-- comment posted by david (aka kwakersaur), http://kwakersaur.blogspot.com/
April 21, 2006 at 3:27 a.m.
Sep 1, 2006 at 10:58PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

Zach, thank you for your supportive words. My journey is currently only two-thirds paid for. Readers who want to help make sure it’s completed can send a check to Omaha Friends Meeting, 702 Rosewood Circle, Bellevue, Nebraska 68005. Contributions are tax deductible, and the use of the funds is overseen by a special committee of the meeting.

David, I’m not sure I’ve been all that quiet! But I thank you for your good wishes. Describing my condition, I would choose the word “leading” rather than “calling”, since what I feel is likely to be only short-term rather than a true vocation. I would guess that my sense of leading is actually pretty similar to that which leads you to teach traditional Quaker theology on your two blog sites; it’s just that, where you are reaching out with your keyboard, I am reaching out instead with my feet!

-- comment posted by Marshall
April 21, 2006 at 4:52 a.m.

Sep 1, 2006 at 10:59PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

This is just delightful and inspiring to read, Marshall. When I saw the printed map of your planned route, I was hoping to find a similar map on the web, or even a mention of it on the website for Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), which has minuted its support, has it not? (Perhaps I am using the wrong Quaker word for its action…) Is there such a map that we might take a look at, and in that way, along with our prayers, accompany you?

Liz, The Good Raised Up

-- comment posted by Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up
Apri1 21, 2006 at 3:35 p.m.

Sep 1, 2006 at 11:03PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

Dear Liz, there is indeed a map, though you can’t just view it on the Web. What you need to do, instead, is to fetch my general letter to Friends, written in February. You can download it from this web page on the Illinois Yearly Meeting web site. Once you’ve downloaded it, open it up with Adobe Acrobat or some other PDF file viewer, and scroll down through the pages until you come to the map section.

As I walk, if all goes well, I intend to post portions of the map to this blog site — one portion per week. But I don’t intend to post the whole thing at once here.

-- comment posted by Marshall
August 21, 2006 at 11:25 p.m.

Sep 1, 2006 at 11:05PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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