February 10, 2011

Spiritual accompaniment and joy from faithfulness

    This is the last of a three-part series, focused on the workshop provided by Margery Post Abbott. --Liz


In the afternoon of her workshop, Margery Post Abbott asked us to get into pairs and reflect together on a number of questions about spiritual accompaniment:
  1. Where do I need accompaniment?
  2. What is nurturing and valuable for me, even if it is difficult to hear?
  3. What kinds of words or behaviors make me withdraw or reject accompaniment?
  4. What makes accompanying others difficult for me? What causes me to say "I can't do this work"?

Being safe and being known

Something I thought of as we returned to the large group and shared what came up for us was that there is a tension between wanting to be safe and wanting to be known. This too is a form of taking up the Cross.

To be safe, we withdraw a bit from our community, we don't risk being vulnerable or sharing how we might be struggling with some element of Quakerism.

But by keeping silent about our inward struggle, our doubt, our spiritual loneliness, we miss opportunities for others to know us at a deeply personal level.

I'm a believer in the concept that when one of us takes a risk and shares something vulnerable, it allows others to take a similar risk, too.

Here's an example of the Cross we live into:
    We love ourselves enough to protect ourselves from potential harm. And we love our worship community enough to allow ourselves to lean into the Everlasting Arms and let ourselves be loved a bit more deeply than we feared was possible.
Soon after our large group sharing, we identified a few ways we provide spiritual accompaniment for one another in our meetings:
  • Spiritual friendships.
  • Care committees and clearness committees.
  • Care-and-accountability committees (aka anchor committees).
  • Having a concern actively taken up by the meeting.
  • Meeting for Worship for Healing.

Faithfulness, freedom, and joy

I think I am not spiritually mature enough to grasp the connection between the taking up the Cross and experiencing joy...

I do know that when I am faithful, especially when I have feared or dreaded giving up my own will in a situation, in the end, I experience a visceral or emotional sense of release. Sometimes it's coupled with relief--"Whew, glad that's over!"--but more often, the feeling is of a burden being lifted, and in turn, a freedom of spiritual movement.

I've heard that for some people, when that happens, there is a subsequent sense of being uplifted, of feeling joy.

We tossed around a few comments and reflections about joy and the Cross:
  • "My yoke is easy and my burden, light." This might be a call to do the hard stuff joyfully. Not for the sake of suffering or for martyrdom but because we know we are doing God's bidding and we know that God loves us.
  • The Cross of Love, if we can see it as this, means the transcendent power of God and joy.
  • Taking up the Cross means laying down one's willfulness, and in this way, we can grow closer to God.
  • If we open to Love, even in difficult moments, we may ultimately find joy.
In the end, in the closing moments of the day, I jotted down this query for myself:
What barriers to love, faithfulness, and humility have I put in front of myself or between me and God?
Am I willing to stand in the Cross and await God's direction...?

Thanks for reading me. The time with Marge was so very fruitful!



My own reflection on Taking up the Cross
More reflections and other tidbits from Marge's workshop


Robin M. said...

The only way I can relate to the concept of joy in taking up the Cross is to compare it to an athlete making a personal best, or finishing a marathon, or something else that is really hard and painful but joyful at the same time.

Chris M. said...

Liz, I just want to say thank you for posting this series. I took some time away from reading blogs, but have come back to it, and was glad to read your reports, though I don't have anything deeper to say at the moment.

Except this: Your writing feels very faithful to me. Keep it up!

Paula said...

I find so much nourishment in what you write.

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for your comments, Friends. I've had a busy couple of weeks and now am absorbed with lots of news from Wisconsin and Japan...

I imagine there might be a bit of joy in the Cross that many of the protesters in Wisconsin have picked up-- what it's like to feel like you are taking a stand on something based on deeply held principles; to show up, despite the travel involved, the conflict, the weather... And to be accompanied in that journey.

Your words encourage me; thank you.