I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord…. Jeremiah 31:33-34
God is speaking to people today as much as ever, revealing truth and showing the Way. It’s valuable to read about the openings received by people in Biblical times and at the beginning of the Quaker movement, but it’s crucial to pay attention to what God is revealing into open hearts and minds now.
In 1984, after an unhappy romance, I was plunged into a time of deep questioning. I wondered if God existed or if my consciousness would survive death. One night under the stars I was changed forever by a glimpse of the invisible, divine reality that undergirds everything. It took time before I could use the word God for the Oneness and the Light I experienced, but I no longer doubted that I was part of an eternal spiritual reality.
In her journal, beloved Quaker teacher Sandra Cronk describes an opening she received while attending a meeting for worship in 1975, when she was thirty-two years old. She was pondering “the new creation” described in Romans 8:21-22. “I kept wondering what this new creation would be like,” she wrote. “Why can’t I see it or feel it? Then in the meeting this morning, I did feel it. I wanted to express it in words for all present. I could not articulate it. I decided it did not need to be said. All could experience it. It was the experience of that Being out of which all our doing should come. It is that Being toward which so much of our doing strives frantically but never reaches because the Being is already there and we do not know it.” (A Lasting Gift, 8)
In response to my previous post, Rhonda shared her first significant opening. It came when she was whole-heartedly seeking understanding, and it “re-oriented” her life.
“One night in 2005, after lying down in bed, I found I couldn’t sleep. I was led into doing meditative breathing, a practice that I had never done before. After a while, I felt myself drifting a bit and viewed myself as floating among the stars. I had a comfortable feeling of Oneness.
“I wanted to perceive `the light within,’ a phrase that I had heard from my pastor at a semi-programmed Friends meeting, so I asked for that with deep sincerity. A space opened up inside of me within which I was able to ask questions and receive the truth in response to my questions. I could tell if the questions I was asking were meant to be asked or not. If something was coming from my ego or was not my question to ask, I was not comfortable to ask it and then did not.
“The essence of what was revealed to me was that God wanted me to grow spiritually, within community, through relationships, and using reflection, to determine what God wanted me to do. Specifically, I heard that I needed to find my Center and that my greatest difficulty was going to be trusting God. I perceived God wanted me to become a spiritual teacher.
“I saw flames as I pursued this experience of truth. I associated them with Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1- 4) and Shadrach, Meshach and Abenego being thrown into the furnace (Daniel 3:8-30). In retrospect, I believe those images indicated that I was going to gain the ability to have direct experience of God and that I was going to be put through a trial of fire, within which I was going to find an additional unexpected presence, which would facilitate the development of those abilities.
“After ignoring all aspects of this message for three years, except attempting to find my Center, I started to take it seriously. It took an additional four years for me to accept that my definitions of spiritual teacher were not what God had in mind. I am still learning and gaining meaning from this experience.”
One bright October day in 2002, when Karie’s life seemed like a “wreck,” she was driving through a beautiful rural landscape when a new spiritual understanding opened in her.
“With no preparation and no warning, I started to weep and to say out loud, “Thank you, thank you for giving me this chance to participate in Life, in Your Life, in Creation.” I had a very deep understanding in those moments of what it is to be part of Creation and to be part of God’s work (or plan, or experience, or experiment, or whatever it is). It was like Spirit just laid a hand on my shoulder and said, “Come on, it’s time, you have suffered too long, you need to walk with me.” It changed my life. I took up my sister’s invitation shortly thereafter to attend her Quaker meeting. I found my spiritual home….
” I felt from that very moment on that I had only the burdens that I could bear, and I did not need to know why, only that with God’s help I would be able to live a more authentic life of peace and power. I have never had occasion to doubt or question it since that one single day. I question myself often, but I’m learning how to do that with lovingkindness and for the real reason: I want to be available all the time to receive God’s guidance.”
* * * * * This post is Part Seven in a series about Ten Elements of the Quaker Spiritual Journey. The next post will describe the Refiner’s Fire, the process by which the Light progressively reveals and then heals or burns away everything within that resists the Light.
Openings: What revelations, visions, guidance, or insight from God have you received? Have you had a deeper seeing of what the world is like now and what it could be? In what ways have you come to understand what God wants of you, your community, or of humanity?
(c) 2013 Marcelle Martin