January 21, 2010

How God reaches us

Shortly after I finished reading Marty Grundy's pamphlet Early Friends & Ministry, I considered more fully the purifying sear of what early Friends sometimes called the refiner's fire. Marty touched on how this quality of the Light helps us understand how we block God's presence in our lives and what blocks us from opening to receive God's love.

So it is that when we pass through the refiner's fire, we are made to become more truly ourselves and what God intended us to be. We become more ready to live up to our measure of the Light we have been given.

In a Meeting for Worship shortly after I finished reading Marty's pamphlet, I also began to consider the phrase "that of God in everyone." I found myself reflecting on some of the writings of Margaret Fell, as shared by Michael Birkel in his Pendle Hill Pamphlet The Messenger That Goes Before.*

Margaret Fell writes beautifully about "that of God" while making it clear that what each of us has inwardly that IS of God--our measure of the Light--is not identical from person to person.

And because of that, God must reach each of us through different means.

As I sat with that statement, I found myself thinking of how the key to my front door does not turn the lock to my backdoor, yet the doors belong to the same house. If my neighbor and I own the same make and model of car, the ignition key to my car does not start the ignition to the car my neighbor drives.

All mechanical keys are similar to one another, yet each one opens--or answers to--only one lock.

Once we ourselves understand both the refinement process and that "that of God" is unique in each of us, then we ourselves can practice the discipline of answering that of God in one another--not necessarily by being "identically kind" to one another but by striving to know how to interact with our brothers and sisters, so their own blocks to God's love and guidance might be cleared away; so that their lock may be opened and God may find a way into their hearts.


*There are other, more comprehensive books dedicated to the writings of Margaret Fell.


e said...

Nice post.

Anonymous said...

I like this thought and it is direct contradiction to that tendency we have to make everyone alike.

kevin roberts said...

hey Liz-

I'd be very interested in hearing what Margaret Fell had to say about "that of God in people." George Fox's use of the concept was pretty fierce, in terms of answering it in other people. His epistles often describe responding to the Light in others as a very direct challenge to people to live up to what they were ignoring within them. This was of course what happened to Margaret herself that day she stood up in her pew as Fox asked "What canst thou say?"

I have a lot of respect for Margaret.

chelavery said...

Liz, thanks for this message. It's something I wish we would think about more. A number of years ago a Friend (I never knew her name) explained her commitment to the peace testimony based on the uniqueness of each person's "measure" of the Light. She said we are like children at play, only half hearing our parent's voice calling us in. Each of us is "attuned" to that voice in a different way, and if we separate ourselves from anyone, we may miss the full message.

Timothy Travis said...

Good Morning, Liz

In my waiting time this morning I found myself meditating on this blog post of yours and contemplating, once again, the tired and powerful bromide/truth about "that of ___ in all of us."

At least two spiritual traditions inform me and it came into focus this morning that this banal profundity could be rooted in either (and probably in others, too).

For it is written that God will write the law on our hearts and we will know it and there will be no need for us to look to others be taught.

And it is written that there is no need to create a Buddha nature in or from ourselves, it exists in all of us.

The need is to connect with what is already there, what we already know, and to be outwardly transformed by it, to go through a "conversion of manners."

The problem is that this law, this nature, tend to be obscured by the noise and the clutter through which we walk, every day.

The heart is to be softened, the mirror is to disappear.

Thanks for the nudge.


forrest said...

I think the trick is to go beyond the effort to make the other person be like you--and recognize, through the apparent differences (and one's own sheer embarrassment at the recognition), where and how they really are like you.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments. I'll respond to a few of them here:

Pat -

There is much power and goodness in allowing each of us to be Exactly Who We Are. And it's a discipline to allow one another that freedom while also trusting that God will call us out into our fullness over time.

Kevin -

It's not so much that Margaret Fell writes directly about what she means by "the Light of God in thee," as much as it is how she uses that phrase and similar ones within the context of some of her letters, etc.

For me, it was a cumulative experience of seeing those phrases throughout Michael Birkel's pamphlet that deepened my implicit understanding of the concept of "that of God in everyone."

Does that help at all?

Chel -

This is a wonderful description of the part we each have to play in the Kin(g)dom of Heaven.

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Timothy -

I like what you've written, especially this: The need is to connect with what is already there, what we already know, and to be outwardly transformed by it, to go through a "conversion of manners."

The problem is that this law, this nature, tend to be obscured by the noise and the clutter through which we walk, every day.

It reminds me that Quakerism is complete (as are other traditions) and the Spirit is sufficient. We are the ones who get in the way of the Spirit and we must work to strip away such "noise and clutter."

Forrest -

I don't think your comment goes far enough. There are times when we are called not just to "recognize... where and how [others] really are like you," but to reach out to the part of God in others that remains asleep or isolated or compartmentalized--to call out to and in fact answer to that very part.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to make that a bit more clear.


Beth said...

This is a great post - I have just written a blog post myself about ministry but am going to go back to edit it and include a link to this post! Lovely!

Liz Opp said...

Beth -

Thanks for pointing me (us) to your own post. All of it makes for good reading.