In my previous post, I lifted up the question, "Do Friends have a practice of confession?"
Once I began writing that post, and as often happens with me, I started sifting through a number of awarenesses and questions that bubbled up around that very topic:
What is it that I have not confessed, that I have not shared with trusted Friends out of arrogance, pride, shame, or self-righteousness?It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and having sat with the first post, I find there is more for me to say.
How is what I am safeguarding for myself and keeping from others interfering with my ability to keep low?
There are behaviors and attitudes I have taken on that in recent weeks have been brought to light for me, thanks to some of the reading that I have been doing:
I can appreciate their faithfulness as a gospel minister, but to do more than that is dangerous. It puts them on a pedestal that sooner or later, by virtue of their being human or by virtue of my being human, must come out from under them.
Recently, I've been aware of my coveting nature because it's shown up like this in my internal dialogue: Wow, look at all those comments that So-and-So's post generated. ...Why don't my own posts get so much attention and acclaim?!
Thou Shalt Not Covet has taken on new meaning to me... But just because it's a Commandment doesn't mean that it's easy to stop coveting, now that I'm aware of having coveted. *sigh*
Before reading Bownas, I had understood that being faithful meant putting myself aside and waiting to feel and know inwardly the leading and guidance of the Divine. But after reading Bownas, there seems to be something more than that, something that I have been missing within myself that can best be expressed as this element of meekness.
Not a doormat meekness, and not a low self-esteem meekness, but something else: a not-needing-to-insert-myself-into-every-conversation-about-Quakerism meekness.
I think about the Friends for whom I have hero worship. They seem to have an element of this meekness. One of them has light-heartedly presented her knowledge of Scripture to me as "this isn't exactly what the Bible says but..." and then has gone on to give a very paraphrased version of the passage, almost like describing a scene that could have occurred on a TV drama or sitcom. In this way, she was the first Friend who made Scripture accessible and non-threatening to me.
Another Friend presents his meekness to me by sharing parts of his life that are well outside the realm of the Religious Society of Friends. I have been caught completely off-guard when he has told me about a certain rock band he's fond of and about his (near?) devotion to baseball.
And a third Friend who recently passed away, well, she was meek in how she approached you if she was dissatisfied with something that was said or if she was confused by a turn of events that left her feeling cast aside. She led with her concern rather than her anger; she brought forward questions rather than chastisement.
I had thought I had learned something from each of these Friends, but perhaps the learning needs to sink more deeply into my heart and soul. In difficult situations, I know I seek to do the right thing right, but by acknowledging that practice, am I letting myself off the hook from considering how to be "slow to speak and ready to hear and receive instruction"? (Bownas, p. 22)
When I look at the examples of Friends who I consider meek or low, I wonder if maybe being meek also has to do with letting others see more into our non-Quaker lives. Not just our struggles and crises, but our diversions and pleasures.
Do I do enough of that sort of sharing, or do I write it off as being too "chit-chatty"? What's the balance to be struck over a potluck meal that follows Meeting for Worship: do we talk about the Presence of God within the meeting and in our lives, or do we talk about how we fill our time when we are not doing Quaker things?
And in my case, where much of my time is dedicated to Quaker pursuits, then what?
Blech. It leaves a heaviness in my heart to acknowledge these things, to confess these things.
(Does online confession get me any additional "points"? ...smile)
UPDATE, 10 Fourth Month 2006: I have lifted up one comment that is made on the previous post and posted it separately, since I feel that the Friend's remarks advance the conversation around the topic of Quakers and confession. Consider it "Part III" of the series on confession...