Ahh, another First Day, another business session.
...Another opportunity for taking a good hard look at myself.
One of the items on this month's agenda for our (continued) consideration was about paid staff, and whether to work with them as independent contractors or as employees of the meeting. As can sometimes happen with items that embody the intersection between the secular world (e.g. legal requirements and definitions) and our faith community (e.g. committee structure and God's leading), we got bogged down.
As someone who was participating in the Meeting for Worship with attention to Business, I didn't handle myself well.
I considered long and hard about leaving the session without saying a word, but I had that niggle. That niggle that says if I say nothing, I will know that I will not have been faithful.
So I said something. And I feel like I was faithful...
...but I didn't feel like I was loving.
Later that afternoon, during the worship group's pre-meeting activity, we were asked to reflect on this passage from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.I fell deeply into the Presence during worship soon afterwards and reflected again on my action during the monthly meeting earlier that day.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body [to hardship] that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (NIV)
I began to wonder what it would require for me to seek to be loving with the same earnestness and obedience with which I already seek to be faithful.
The creeds I've known
In turn, I found myself reflecting on the messages I was raised with and the messages I had been encouraged to embrace as I grew older.
But this matter of "Be loving," especially in relation to Quakers, is tricky, because certainly Love is in fact embodied and reflected in the actions by so many dear Friends around me.
- From Mom: Be honest.
My mom in particular frequently expressed how important it was to tell the truth, even if the truth was that I did draw on the floor with permanent magic marker. (I was about six.)
- From Judaism: Be dutiful.
The religion of my childhood put a great deal of emphasis on participating in the rituals of the Sabbath and of the various Jewish holidays. The mystical side of Judaism was given very little attention both in the synagogue where I received my religious education and among the Orthodox Jewish part of my family. (Thankfully, there are others who have written about, and are writing about, the mystical side of Judaism.)
- From the women's community in which I participated: Be supportive and challenging.
This comes close to "Be loving" but in the end... it was close but no cigar.
- From the early part of my Quakerism: Be faithful. Be truthful.
Nothing explicitly about love, except when Scripture is quoted.
Has something gone wrong?
So what's gone missing? Why haven't I internalized the message of "Be love" to the same degree that I have with "Be faithful"?
I could point to my religious upbringing and say I wasn't raised in the Christian faith, where perhaps one Rabbi's message of radical love would have been reinforced... but that wouldn't explain why I have internalized and embraced other parts of the Quaker discipline.
I wonder now if it's because as Friends we often encourage one another in our faithfulness by affirming, "Thee was faithful." My gosh, how many times have I myself commented on another's post, "It sounds like you are being faithful to what you have been given"?!
Yet I don't recall a time--ever--when I heard one Friend say to another, "Thee was loving."
Do I need to hear the words as well as see the actions that express and connote love? Am I that obtuse, that human, to need such repetition and reinforced modeling by so many others over such a long period of time?
At the same time, I am struck over and over again by the tenderness, care, and love expressed in the letters and epistles of early Friends like Penington, Fox, Woolman. (The book I'm reading now, Quaker Spirituality, is feeding into all these questions I am having about the (unnamed) testimony of Love)
A Hebrew prayer, revisited
For the past few weeks, for a reason that is apparent only now, I have found myself recalling bits and pieces of a Jewish prayer known as the V'ahavta.
The V'ahavta is a prayer that as a young person, you end up memorizing the Hebrew rather than understanding what it actually says.
But there is one phrase in particular which I recall the rabbi lifted up, each Sabbath service, and this is the phrase that has arisen for me in recent weeks:
You shalt love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might... And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart... and you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates....I find I am being called to remember that it is not enough to be faithful or to speak the Truth as it is revealed to me.
It is important to be faithful, to speak the Truth ...and to do so in Love.
RELATED POST: Faith without love?