I’ve been feeling led lately to write on more explicitly Quaker messages. This is stemming from a desire to live a more integrated life, in which my spirituality is not separate from my transformation work. If needed, here is a Quaker jargon decoder developed by British Friends.
On the last day of my trip to Kenya, I visited an unprogrammed Quaker Meeting for Worship in Nairobi. It had been a long few weeks, with intense conversations, big experiences, and the daily stress of culture shock and missing luggage. I was worn out. As we settled into meeting, I found myself thinking, “Okay, God, let’s have a quiet morning. Please, I don’t want a message today. I want to sit in silence for an hour and then get on a plane and fly home.” I could feel myself resisting the possibility of connecting to Spirit. I didn’t want to feel my heart pounding and I certainly didn’t want to stand and share vocal ministry with a shaking voice. I wanted a peaceful moment of calm. It was almost as if I was sticking my fingers in my ears and saying to God, “Na-na-na, I can’t hear you!”
This resistance was telling to me. I had left the World Conference of Friends just days earlier incredibly energized by the direct experience of God, the Quaker practice of deep listening, the opportunity to know Truth and allow Spirit to work through me. And yet here I was, not even having left Kenya yet, surrounded by Friends on a Sunday morning, very intentionally closing myself to voice of God.
This moment of recognition, as I witnessed myself shutting down, also shed light on the many other moments in my life when I have chosen to be less than fully present. How often do I arrive for Meeting for Worship not quite open to the idea of connecting to God? How often do I close my ears to divine truth, choosing instead to daydream or review my to-do list? How often do I prefer to stay at a superficial level of spiritual practice, rather than preparing my heart to being “ripped open and torn asunder,” as Margaret Fell described the experience of fully connecting to the Light of God? What would it look like to show up fully at Meeting in the spirit of early Quakers, ready to be transformed, prepared to quake? How would it transform the Religious Society of Friends if we all gathered with fully open hearts?
Maybe because I’ve tasted a bit of what it means to be torn asunder, I still find myself holding back from complete openness to the Light. During my daily spiritual practice, I’m much more comfortable reading a book or writing in my journal, rather than meditating or deeply listening. While an incredible gift, being ripped open is intense and frightening! No wonder we sometimes don’t show up fully during our moments of worship!
I suppose a more appropriate query, then, is how can we support and nurture each other to feel safe and tended to as we open ourselves to Spirit? How can we hold the space for the intensity of experience that accompanies standing fully in the Light?