This past First Day found me in a very dark time... one of those moods where no spiritual Light could come in; where bad thoughts bred worse thoughts, and where neutral words of greeting from fFriends easily were twisted into evidence of self-worthlessness.
But as on most First Days when I'm in town, I had the opportunity to attend two Meetings for Worship. Even though something within me wanted to keep me home, I heeded the Something Deeper that told me to go and wait on the Lord in worship.
In the morning at the local monthly meeting, there were messages about joy in the midst of strife, and how to acknowledge the strife without minimizing it or becoming depressed because of it. In the afternoon at the worship group, I sank a bit further into the Seed and found myself reflecting on a number of topics:
- What am I seeking right now?
- If I find what I'm seeking, how will I be changed?
- Remember to give up the difficulty to God so that God may see it through.
- What do I need in order to be sustained?
About five years ago, I started limping because of pain in my right ankle. I went to the doctor, who happened to have a background in sports medicine. All of my best medical treatment for any part of my body that was ailing me was provided by physicians who had a background in sports medicine, and this doctor didn't disappoint!
After a series of short, low-tech muscle tests in the exam room ("Hold your leg up while I push down on it, and resist me"), I was told I have very weak muscles in my hips. Either my hips weren't strong enough to keep my ankles (and presumably knees) in alignment, or vice versa. Whatever it was, after a few weeks of physical therapy and regularly doing key exercises that focused on my ankles, my hips, and my core, my limping was practically gone.
It's four or five years later, and I'm keeping up with my workout routine. Some of the exercises haven't changed, like the calf raises; other exercises have been made a bit more complicated, like crunches that are done on the large stability ball. The net result is that I've been able to maintain my improved ankle, hip, and core strength. And I've also taken more responsibility for exercising on my own, working without a trainer at least once a week.
Last Sunday, in worship, I was thinking of how working one muscle group sustains the alignment in another muscle group, sometimes a half- or whole body away. Working on my core muscles helps my hip alignment; my hip alignment helps my knees; my knees work in coordination with my ankles.
I began thinking of how working one spiritual muscle sustains the alignment in another set of spiritual muscles, seemingly disconnected. My being away from worship for nearly two weeks while I was traveling took me away from my social time with fFriends who knew something of my ongoing journey. It seemed like in turn, being away from fFriends distanced me from the ability to see how Spirit was moving among us as a group, or even among any one of us as an individual.
Not seeing or hearing stories of how the Spirit was moving left a hole in my psyche that I wasn't conscious of, as the road trip and visits among non-Quaker friends continued. By the time I returned to my home, I was feeling the darkness of dejection start to creep in, and I didn't have a plan to interrupt its intrusion.
So it came.
And in worship in the afternoon this past First Day, I was wondering what I was seeking, what I might find, and how one part of my body was supporting and sustaining the health of another part of my body. Might there be a parallel, between how one part of my spiritual life might support and sustain other parts of my spiritual life...?
Worship broke, and a Friend shared the passage from Scripture that he had been reflecting on Luke 11:9-10:
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (NIV)Another Friend reflected on how she relies on God's grace to fall upon her whenever she needs it. A third Friend shared a bit of God's humor as he reconnected with the Spirit during worship.
Listening to these stories began to draw me in, to help me feel reconnected. And the commonality between my inward experience and some of the reflections of my fellow worshipers wasn't lost on me.
We were sustaining one another by sharing our experience of the Presence and of worship as a gathered body. We were able to see and hear and sense how the Spirit was working to bind us together--to one another as well as to God. Frequently, when we've taken the time to share like this out of the silence after worship, we hear similar threads in our experience. It's like we are gathering evidence that Something Happens inwardly and collectively that binds us together in our expectant waiting.
When I spoke after worship of the dark time I had been experiencing, I also acknowledged that that little bit of sharing was already bringing to me a bit of sustenance. Like God's manna, dropped by God's grace to the people traveling in the wilderness, searching for home...