November 16, 2005

Giving myself up to God's work

I am nearing a crossroads.

I feel the inward pull of the Spirit to put certain thoughts to paper, to put fingers to the keyboard. To be obedient to this call, to test it and dwell deep in it, I sense I must lay down some other activity and make room.

I find I am living with the question:

Were I not to read these Quaker blogs, nor spend time writing for The Good Raised Up, might I turn my attention more fully to the writing that God now calls me to?

My heart feels a bit heavy and I begin to bargain.

Might I not blend the two?

Might I allow a day (or two...?) for blog reading and blog writing, and reserve the other days for pursuing the new work?

If I were granted another Opportunity to share what I feel I am holding, would I not feel more certain of dedicating more time to this new writing?
I know I must give up these questions. I must give up my own wants and preferences. I must give up myself to God and to God's work, and the rest will follow.

My heart knows this but my body, my fingers resist.

I'll close this brief post with two quotes from the journal of John Woolman.
The more fully our lives are conformable to the will of God, the better it is for us; consider whether we employ our time only in such things as are consistent with perfect wisdom and goodness. (Chapter six, during the time of a smallpox epidemic)

Then the mystery was opened and I perceived there was joy in heaven over a sinner who had repented, and that the language "John Woolman is dead," meant no more than the death of my own will. (Chapter twelve, the 26th of Eighth Month)


David Carl said...

Liz, I'm reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I'm unable to find the quote, but I'd swear that I just read a passage saying that, the more we learn to discern God's will, the more our own will comes into harmony with God's. I suppose I am afraid that what you are saying is that you are going to ignore, suppress, or discard certain inner promptings as merely "self will" and therefore not worthy of consideration (and of course, I don't know for sure that that is so!) I'm not convinced that God works that way. In this type of discernment, I feel it may be useful to ask how we would respond to our desires, bodily resistance, etc. if they were coming from someone we love? Would we say, "sorry, honey, not God's will?" In my view, if your body and fingers are resisting, God is telling you something worth listening to! I believe we will have discerned God's will when body, mind, emotions and beliefs are in accord with one another rather than pulling in different directions. Ears, tail, trunk, & legs are all necessary to make that elephant!

Take care,

Zach Alexander said...

Liz, I don't want to be the voice of compromise if you feel you need to avoid compromise, but I wonder if you might find the time you need by limiting your blogging, instead of dropping it. For example, only reading two or three well-chosen blogs, or posting less often.

What other writing is it that you are considering?

James Chang said...

Sometimes the demand from God is quite spectacular, to use 18th century English, to the faithful. I for one am not sure if I could let the "dean bury the dead" and forsake my parents to follow Christ.

A Pennsylvanian Friend once told me though, that the fact that he were not able to slay his son for God's sake did not highlight his faithlessness as much as it did reveal God's faithfulness: the idea was that although he wasn't able to sacrifice his son for God's sake, God was able to do the same for him.

So I think we should perhaps all be patient with the Spirit, and if we fall short of its expectations (as we all do), have patience with ourselves.

Nancy A said...


I wonder if the task at hand for this generation is to think and talk. We need new definitions, new ideas, new ways of being religious. Most of all, we need to get the new questions out there, the ones that will generate the new answers. The only way that's going to happen is through thinking and talking. Or blogging.

I've said this before, elsewhere: I don't think answers are really possible in this era. We have to be content with good questions and flickers of insight. If the answers aren't there, forcing them to be there is too much like a lie.

I like your blog. I'm content if you keep on writing. Your Light shines for me.

Joe G. said...

My hope is that you will follow where you are being lead. My hope, too, is that God won't lead you completely away from blogging (whether that is blogging and/or visiting other blogs). In my own life, I often resist the truth that less can indeed be more. Prayers and thoughts to thee.

Liz Opp said...

Thank you all for your comments and support. For now, it seems that my life and my God have insisted that I direct my energies elsewhere, namely to tending to hurt hearts.

More later, as Way opens.


Liz Opp said...

Dave Carl, you write: I believe we will have discerned God's will when body, mind, emotions and beliefs are in accord with one another rather than pulling in different directions.

I agree. One experience I draw on quite often is when I moved from one city to another. I knew I needed to wait until ALL of me was ready to move. When the move finally happened, it happened smoothly and uneventfully. So I appreciate your words here.

Zach, your comment reflects my own internal questioning and seeking. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Also, James, you articulate an inward struggle I am familiar with, when I feel I am wrestling with God because I think I am being asked to do something that will be hurtful to someone else. ...I appreciate the advice to "be patient with the Spirit."

Nancy A raises an interesting question: Is the task for contemporary Friends to create new ways of being religious?

Her question prompts me to ask my own: Is the task for contemporary Friends to learn about and restore earlier tradition and practice, in addition to seeking new ways to stay faithful to the leadings of the Spirit as Friends?

And I agree: We must look for and catch the "flickers of insight" that we experience--through Quaker writings, Quaker gatherings, and personal and corporate experience. Let us test what we find and see if these flickers can be set ablaze...

Nancy A, and also Beppe, thanks for your words of support and encouragement. I continue to pray that I am being faithful, even in living with so many questions.


Rob said...

My prayers are with you Liz. God bless, Rob

James Chang said...

Now that I have thought a little more about it, I think I have come to believe that doing good by acting on our natural inclinations to be benevolent (and nice...) is without inherent moral value.

To put it differently, an act is "moral" in the pure sense (and not sentimental) when the motive of fulfilling our God-given duty is in itself sufficient to produce the act performed.

There are many ways to define this "duty." Personally I think the Summary of the Law (love the Lord and our neighbor) is a good capturing of it. So in a sense duty, not sympathy or anything else, should be the primary reason for me to help someone out...

So let's apply this to the scenario you mentioned. You felt a duty to love someone through hurting her feelings, and this run counter to your temperament. What should you do?

Anonymous said...

AAAAACK! Liz might not write her blog. She might no longer model her thoughtful and tender blogging voice. She might not ask the really good questions. She might not encourage the tender novice. What will I do? What will I do? Don't leave me! (my heart cries out...)

Getting a hold of myself:

Do you think you should not read any blogs or just not write your own blog? (Will you read mine? Is that all I really want to know?)

Will you promise to write every day in your true leading, so that we can hope for the better, longer version to come out soon?

Will you test your leading for a time, and see if way opens more widely without reading Quaker blogs or if they actually feed your writing?

Are you letting other fears hush your voice?

Will you at least leave this blog online so that I can read it and refer to it from time to time? Like a book on my shelf?

With much gratitude for your writing so far,
Robin M.

Liz Opp said...

Robin, thanks your comments. They make me smile and lighten my burden a bit. I want to lift up some thoughts and musings that run parallel to your own:

I dang well might continue writing The Good Raised Up.

I dang well might continue reading Quaker blogs... including What Canst Thou Say.

And yes, I'm still testing this nudge-leading, even now. I'm reading others' responses to this post and I'm revisiting the opportunity to write more deeply about concerns and topics already touched on within the Quaker blogosphere.

Thanks to the staff of FGC's Publications department, I've also been put in touch with two Quaker authors to answer my questions and serve as guideposts.

And the only fear that is "hushing my voice" right now is the fear of getting started! smile

Thank you, Friends, for companioning me along the way.