In the past two days I have been blessed to have visits with two young adults who are seeking to listen to their lives and find their way as ministers. Both have spoken of highly restrictive religious institutional systems which tended to crush their spirits and bring a “shackles on” mode of controlling them. Both entered the systems hoping for the freedom to live unique callings to serve God in the world. Both found doors being slammed in their faces repeatedly. So is it any wonder that 80% of young adults are walking away from church attendance and seeking other avenues for their own becoming in the world?
During both visits I was personally inspired by the passion, intensity, and giftedness of the young women. I could see the aliveness of Spirit still flourishing in them, despite the effects of the institutional crush. I could see their great potential for unfolding service in the world, for being used as vessels by a very powerful Divine Source, and the continuation of God’s work in them as it moves toward new forms.
But I also left the visits saddened. Is this really what the church has come to: crushing the life out of young adult servants with demanding expectations, altered visions of what they “should” become, curbing their innate gifts to fit into prescribed roles that worked 50 years ago, punishing them for speaking up with new visions and dreams of what could be, and dictating a path for them which is all about saving the dying institution and not at all about following their true and unique calling to be themselves in service with the world?
In the face of the sad treatment of these young adult ministers by church institutions, it is a total miracle that there is still a gleam in their eyes, a sparkle that says there is still hope. Both have veered off the course prescribed by the institutions and both are now actively seeking to discern Spirit’s true Voice. Both are believing there might be another way, another path, where freedom to be one’s unique being and to use one’s unique giftedness is possible. Thanks be to God that God is not done with them yet, and that they have not lost hope. I hope they will also listen to the song “Conqueror” by Estelle. It just might help to empower them to let those gleams in the eye become a shining reality.
One of my favorite lines from the poetry of the Sufi mystic, Rumi, refers to how someone’s soul “is as vast as the night sky over Yemen.” I hope these young ministers will discover that vast soul, since that is God’s great gift which no man should ever be allowed to take away. I pray they will be able to hear a speaking Voice from the inner sanctuary of the soul which can lead them into their own vastness. I pray they will come to experience this vastness and learn to soar. And maybe if they find their way the rest of us, who might no longer qualify as young, can be inspired to see how our souls too are “as vast as the night sky over Yemen.”
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.