It finally happened. Just last week, in fact. In an elders meeting, someone referred to me as a weighty Friend, and everyone there solemnly agreed. No one even snickered.
So I guess I’ve arrived. But the question is—where?
“Weighty Friend” is one of those delightful Quaker terms that’s fun to say, but whose meaning slips and slides around a bit. Is this remnant from early Quakerism still meaningful? Helpful? And what does it mean in reference to me?
My first reaction was shock (unexpressed in typical quakerly fashion). My second reaction was laughter (silent, of course). I thought of “Fat Quaker” as a likely synonym, but my need to diet is not extreme. If the pudgy-cheeked man on the oatmeal box were only frowning, he would be the perfect model.
My third reaction has been a week of pondering and, now, journaling.
I love the old terms, even the archaic ones. Some of them carry an ambience of holiness, order, and, yes, Quaker culture. Some of them still manage to be useful, even after all these years. Maybe “weighty Friend” is one of these.
As I understand the term, it refers to long-time Quakers whose words and lives have made them worth listening to. These people have earned a reputation for wisdom. In my own setting in the Northwest, people like Arthur Roberts, Ralph Beebe, Paul Anderson, and Howard Macy (who will chuckle if he reads this) come to mind. (Actually, Howard might just be too funny to be a weighty Friend, at least in the solemn sense of the term.)
How am I to hold this term in reference to myself? To be honest, I don’t feel ready to adopt this as part of my identity. Perhaps this is part of my admitted resistance to growing older. Do I also have to grow more solemn, stern, and stereotypically Quaker? I certainly don’t always feel wise.
The following words come to mind: “By the grace given me, I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3). And, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). (If the Apostle Paul had had the foresight to have become a Quaker, he would have indeed been a weighty one.)
This gives me perspective. I think “weighty Friend” is a helpful concept, as long as I apply it to other people. But I will not wonder whether I am or am not. It’s not for me to say. And if anyone ever calls me that again, I’ll chuckle out loud or keep it silent, depending on the sensibilities of the person addressing me.
Having worked that through, I feel so much lighter.