I’ve been known to accuse myself of lacking imagination – I can’t imagine being with anyone other than Carl, dosage I can’t imagine not being a Friend. The older I get, check the more stuck in my ways I am. But being in love and being a Friend are far from about being stuck in a rut. Rather both are a commitment of the soul. Both have become intertwined with my being. Yesterday in worship, search a dear Friend spoke of the unexpected heart failure which lead to the death of his young wife over twenty years ago. In the despair, he knew God present, assuring him of being held no matter what. This assurance holds the same solidity as Julian of Norwich’s knowledge that “all shall be well, in all manner of things, all shall be well,” a knowledge which grew out of the time when she was close to death.
The image of being held in the divine hand is part of my experience as well. For me, this hand was reaching into a cage desiring to free the small bird trapped there. The bird fluttered, chirped and scurried around in fear, unable to comprehend the offer of the open sky until at last it was gently embraced and set loose to test its wings sustained and lifted by the breath of God.
Breaking fear and opening my heart to the tender sparks of the Spirit which light a steady fire of passionate love of the Eternal and of my neighbor – this is what sitting in silence is about. All else comes from this. Even so, this awareness began each time I attempted to speak up against injustice, press Congress to deny money for nuclear weapons or argued for protection of the Oregon coast. To sink into that place of holy compassion is risky. It might draw you to unexpected places. Mostly those places will be close to home – listening to prosecutors, families of murder victims, prison wardens and murderers with the same awareness of Grace taking a chair nearby. Only for a few of us such as Tom Fox in Iraq, or Norman Morrison on the steps of the Pentagon, are those places physically dangerous. For me, the call was to face my own prejudices against evangelical Friends and to find ways to build links instead of deepening the chasms between us. But even the simplest call to faithfulness can test the strength of our ties to what is comfortable and easy.
Faithfulness to the Truth demanded I drop easy presumptions about other people, especially those derided as being wrong for their politics or the way they speak of God. Listening to the divine call in the silence pushed me to face my own intense fear of speaking and being a public presence. Being part of a community which has long witnessed to the transforming power of Christ which is beyond all fear and stronger than any evil, has upheld me through the years.