Thursday, June 7, 2007

God is in the Grayness

"... What would happen if every time we did something we disapproved of, we opened our heart to heaven?” (by Alan Lew)

“You never know who will be your witness. You never know who grants forgiveness. Look to heaven or sit with us.” (Betty’s Diner by Carrie Newcomer)

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” (Henry James)


Forest of A Quaker Watering Hole posted this quote by Alan Lew as a writing starter for us Quaker bloggers. After reading it I felt called to write in response.
"... What would happen if every time we did something we disapproved of, we opened our heart to heaven? What would happen if every time we felt an impulse we didn't like, we acknowledged its divine origin?...

"Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting that it's all right to keep on being mean to people. I am saying that if you keep beating yourself up for being mean, your meanness is just going to keep striking back, getting stronger and more vicious with each blow. If on the other hand you were to fill up your meanness with attention and presence, it might just begin to cool down...

"When we experience ourselves exactly as we are, we sense our oneness with everything and we realize there is no such thing as a mistake. When we pay attention, everything enlightens us, even the things we think of as mistakes."
I grew up, and in many ways continue to live, in a black and white moral world. Throughout my life there has always been, right and wrong, the right way to live and wrong ways to live, good things to spend your money/time/energy on and a waste of time, money and energy. There have been good life style choices and bad life style choices, the right things to believe and stupid ways to behave. In my family of strong-minded women, our way always had to be the right way and everyone else had to be, pretty much, wrong. Guilt is an emotion I am well acquainted with. Furthermore, I have carried this black and white attitude into my work, there are things worth fighting for, and things that are just a waste of time. Yet recently I have begun to examine my tendency to see the world in a moral pattern of black and white. When a friend of mine asked me what I thought constituted a “good and righteous life” I struggled with the question. I fought my instinct to tern to strict moral definitions of what made a good and righteous life, realizing that these moral frameworks were in many ways static and unbending. I instead tried to base my answer on the good and righteous people I know and had known, the people I feel do live good lives. I finally came up with an answer that was not based on traditional black and white moral values. "A good and righteous life," I told my friend, "was one where people dared to push themselves to their personal limits to become the most they could possibly be." I realized that my definition was based largely on the illiterate, disabled and mentally ill communities I have worked with. These people do not live good lives in many peoples eyes, some had made bad choices, others lived in incredibly poverty, but over and over again I have encountered the willingness and the strength to put their lives back together and push themselves to be the most they could possibly be as people.
The other day I picked up a bottle of Honest Tea and read a quote from Henry James on the inside of the lid “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” This quote stuck with me, so much so that it is now one of my new signature lines for my e-mail. I am drawn to the message that the most important thing we can to with our lives is to be kind. The more I think about these two incidences the more I am sure that they are intrinsically connected. I am being drawn away from judging everything by a strict moral code. To see the world in black and white is to lose the ability to see the grayness. To see the places where the people unlike us are good and kind. Where people who make mistakes are still capable of good and great things. It draws me away from truly seeing God in everyone because I am so worried about weather they fit into my narrow definitions of right and wrong. Most of all however it stops me from seeing God in myself.
If I am constantly plagued by guilt because of badly spend money there, time that should have been spent studying here, then I begin the slow process of losing sight of the fact that I am a child of God. The more I beat up on myself for being human, the more I forget that God made me that way and loves me just the same. The more I stop loving myself because I can not be perfect, more I lose sight of God’s love. When I became a Quaker and a Christian, I did it under a belief that changed my life. The belief that God loved me and wanted only for me to love myself just as unconditionally. The day in Meeting when I was faced by this realization I made a promise to God that I would try to love myself and care for myself with the same reverence that She showed to me. I must never lose sight of that promise. Every time I make a mistake I must open my heart to God instead of beating myself around the head with my own guilt. Only through this quiet surrender can I come to understand the beauty and fullness of God’s plan for my life.

10 comments:

Amy said...

I really like this post. I'm working on responding. I think the tension between having a very high moral bar (and goodness knows Quakers do and always have) and forgiveness and loving is a central one. . . . I think we are a lot better at forgiving others than ourselves. Lots to chew on here. More later, I hope.

reflect06 said...

definate echoes of our conversation last evening, Anna. letting go and living in the gray is a challange, and you're right- how the world is mapped out for us as kids can have alot of staying power. i like where you go with this- like amy said, more to think about, and wander off with. like a puppy with a chew toy.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna said...

Hey,
thank you to for posting. Amy brought up a good point when she talked to be privately. This post is also reflecting on the difficult position we have as Friends since we live both with the belief of God's total love and with a very high rigid moral code we try to hold ourselves accountable to. Finding the middle ground is the struggle.

Peace and Joy,
Anna.

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