September 11, 2005

God's Love is at the center

Corporate change can only occur with corporate leading.
— Jeffrey Hipp

Earlier this year, I had allowed some comments from a few Friends in my life to haunt me. While Jeffrey Hipp's words remind me of an earlier time in my Quaker process, when Jesus language and Christ language and a strict code of how Quakers do things would have repelled me from Quakerism, I find that the remarks made by some nontheist Friends make me sigh inwardly these days.

As a result, it has become required of me to continue to reflect on my own relationship with liberal Friends. All these reactions--of being haunted, of being repelled, and of being frustrated--are signs that there has been something going on within me that I have needed to pay attention to.

It is hard for me not to take the remarks of some nontheist Friends personally, because of my belief and experience that God and God's Love are at the center of Quaker faith and practice. With further contemplation, I realize it is more likely the Light itself that is searching me and having me lay naked and bare before God:

I have not had God's Love at the center of my growth as a Friend. Instead, I have had my desire for a Spirit-led process and grounded-in-God worship experience at the center.

Not the same thing, and I feel humbled by the realization.



Amanda said...


Thank you, friend.

Mark Wutka said...

Thank you for the reminder to examine my motivations. As you mentioned in a comment on my blog, it is so much easier to turn gently back to God when we are not scolding or berating ourselves. I cannot read your soul, but I do wonder if your desire for spirit-led worship and God-grounded worship stems from your love for God and your desire to be closer to God, and that maybe your aren't as off-center as you feel you are.
Peace & Love,

Rob said...

Hmmm... Thanks Liz. A reminder to us all.

That darn Jeff gets more airtime... :)

Consider the Lilies

Liz Opp said...

Needless to say, it's not been easy to be "condemned" by the Light in this manner. Not that I feel I have sinned, but to know I have missed the mark, mistaking the desire to be Spirit-led as the same as having God's love in the center of all things.

Mark, you suggest that maybe I am not as "off-center" as I claim. Oh, I wish that were true, but I fear in my gut that the sin lies in wanting others to be grounded in the Spirit; wanting our conduct of business to be grounded in the Spirit; wanting our discernment and our interpersonal conflict and our worship to be grounded in the Spirit.

It would be easy if it were only *I* who were not grounded in the Spirit, for certainly then my love for God would help bring me to the center once more.

But no: I must surrender my desire that others change, a realization about which I have written earlier and more completely.

Thanks Amanda, Mark, and Rob, for stopping by and keeping the light of this conversation aflame for me.


Martin Kelley said...

Yes, an age-old contradiction. It's not good enough to know and feel the Light. One also must be obedient to it, which means waiting on it's timings. God is the only one that will speak to other friends' condition and our use as an instrument is totally dependent upon our faithfulness and obedience. I might venture that this is one of the key openings of our faith: it's not enough to be right or to be knowledgable or to motivated by good causes. We must also be motivated by direct promptings and spend the rest of our time centering ourselves in love, charity, prayer and identifying the beams in our own eyes.

David Bridger said...

Liz, after reading your post I lifted your name to the Lord and asked him to give you peace.

He showed me angels, singing and dancing in celebration of your realisation, and told me he already has given you peace.

Then he said, "Btw, while you're here, David..." and showed me all the anguished sighing I've been doing on my blog since Katrina hit. He reminded me (for the third time in two weeks) that he calls people to fight battles and that I'm not on the active service list for this one, despite my strong feelings.

He told me to read your post again and to remember to keep his love at the centre of my being, so that I may hear and understand his leading.

I'm glad you have your peace, Liz, and thank you for speaking the wisdom that led me towards mine.

Liz Opp said...

Martin, your comment reflects a similar theme in a comment made by "llw" on the previous post.

What's significant about these two recent comments is that they are ministering to me even now, as I wrestle with honoring the request made by a committee clerk ("motivated by good causes") and being obedient to the Spirit ("waiting on its timings").

Welcome back to the Quaker blogosphere, Martin.


Liz Opp said...

David, thank you for visiting and letting me (us) know how the Lord is speaking to you. May you also be at peace.


Larry said...

"the desire to be Spirit-led": Blessed are they (you) that hunger and thirst after righteousness. I have to agree with Mark.

" my desire that others change": hold on now; don't you think our Lord wanted his first disciples (and us) to change. Dear Friend, I constantly desire for my loving wife to change-- and she does, praise God, usually much better than I wanted her to.

We all desire one another to change for the better, to grow up into the fullness.

That admonition to 'let others be' is a 60's admonition, not a Christian one. Sure I love you as you are, and I wish you were even more radiant. Not to feel like that would be not to love you.

Well I didn't set out to be provocative, but I probably have, but maybe that's not so bad, huh!

Liz Opp said...

Larry, thanks for your provocative reply! You have tapped a subtlety that is hard for me to put my finger on... Let's see:

I understand the paradox that God loves us just as we are; and that God asks (commands?) that we grow.

God loves us as we are <--> God wants us to grow

Also, while it's true that I have a human desire that others change (and that others have a human desire that I change!), it is also true that I do not create change in others; one's own partnership with the Divine does--or something like that.

Does your loving wife change simply because you desire her to, or does she change because of her relationship to something that is both within and beyond herself, both within and beyond your relationship?

Well, I believe I understand what you are calling out, though: Do not simply "let others be," but rather help them live up to their own measure of Light, help them listen ever more closely to the instruction of the Inward Teacher.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Robin M. said...

It is also true that people seldom change because we tell them to. Unless they accept us as their teachers to begin with. But perhaps they may be inspired to change due to our example. Maybe then they can see that the niggling urge to change that God has been sending them all along may be possible to carry out.

Allison said...

Hi Liz,

Very interesting entry. I'm glad you had a very personal realization. I just today had one myself. Of course, my crusade for Love hasn't changed, but now I have inner peace about what I'm supposed to do, or not do, about it. The funny thing is, I got the nudge from the Buddhist concept of equanimity - - about "knowing one's place" in the world regardless of the circumstances.

It's funny because the nudge made me realize I do want to be a Friend and that the things I want to see can only happen if I embrace Quakerism as it is right here and now. Leap and the net will appear. Quakerism has the potential to evolve, which is what its founders ensured by not having dogma or authorities. That freedom and space IS the Love. Quakerism is anarchist in nature, and anarchy can be a wonderful beautiful thing, but not without challenges. The goal is harmony.


Liz Opp said...

Hi, Allison --

Glad to see you here, even a good many months after the post originally appeared. I'm always curious how readers find their way to The Good Raised Up and choose to read previous entries...

Anyway, I'm struck by your last remark, that "Quakerism is anarchist in nature." As I understand anarchy, that is about not having any system of order whatsoever. But the Quakerism I've delved into has a system that is organized around a number of Divine principles (as opposed to human ones)--

that God can communicate directly with any of us;

that God's instruction and will for us can be known and tested and understood, primarily through a process of individual and corporate discernment;

that our lives and the lives of others around us are improved as we align ourselves and our lives to the will of God as we understand who, what, and how God's Love is made manifest in our lives.

(All these concepts are paraphrases of my own understanding, fyi.)

I'm not sure that I'd say that the "goal" is harmony, as much as I'd say that harmony is the end result of being faithful and loving...

Thanks again for reading and adding your thoughts and experiences to the conversation.


Allison said...

Someone posted this on QuakerQuaker in universalism, btw.

A good starting point for us would be to have the same definition! I say "anarchy" because when I mean anarchy I mean absent of a formal governing body. For reference, this is the term I was thinking of:

"A theoretical social state in which there is no governing person or body of persons, but each individual has absolute liberty (without the implication of disorder)."

Usually people think anarchy=chaos, but that is not necessarily so.

I view music as a divine gift of Truth. We all play different instruments, and all have different parts. Lack of harmony would be everyone playing the same note in the same rhythm. I am confused why you say harmony is not the goal. What then is peace?