Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Strength to Go Into the Wilderness

“I have been asked many times
to take leaps I did not feel ready to do.
But when I’ve done that I’ve been held
And I have been an agent for God
In ways I never could have been
If I didn’t trust and take that leap.”
- Jean-Marie P. Barch 1998.

Who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to God “My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust.” For God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilences; God will cover you with pinions and under God’s wings you will find refuge. – Psalm 91:1-4.


About two years ago I attended FGC’s FLGBTQCC Mid-Winter Gathering. While there we were asked to consider several queries every day in our small group worship sharing. One of these queries was something along the lines of, “How do we tell the difference between acts of love and acts of fear?” In my worship sharing I felt moved to speak about this query and then again during worship. As the Spirit usually does I started out focusing on the query and then was led to speak to deeper questions. When considering the difference between acts of love and acts of fear I am led to believe that Friends generally have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Maybe not on a personal level, but as a group we tend to see praise as coming from a place of love and criticize more need for change as coming from a place of fear. In my own experience among Friends I have not found this to be the case. Instead, I have often found that we want to hear praise and only praise about our meetings and the Religious Society of Friends because we are afraid of what might happen if we begin to take criticism seriously and move to change the way things are. Often I have found praise alone comes from a place of fear of change, a fear that we will make things worse or break things beyond repair. Whereas often I have found those who offer criticism and ask for change are doing so out of love, love for their faith and a need that that faith should live up to what they know it is capable of being.

I have been moved to think that there is another image and another question behind this concept of acts of love and acts of fear. I am then called to the image of the wilderness as expressed many times in the Bible and the concept of Blessed Community. I believe that if we are truly a Blessed Community under God, guided by the Spirit, then we should have enough trust and love for each other that will allow us to know what cannot break what was not meant to be broken. I believe that when we act with love and faith in God and in each other we can never make things worse, only better. If some things break, or change, we must have faith that this is what God has meant to happen and all things will be made right and whole in the end. We as a community must not be afraid to go out into the wilderness. We must trust in one another, in ourselves that we might wander, and suffer, and it might be hard and our faith might be tested but in the end we will come out a community, whole and faithful. This ability to go out into the wilderness is not just an act of faith in one another but an act of faith in God. We must believe that God loves us enough that we can go into the dark, into the wilderness, to do things that we are afraid of doing, and God will bring us home. I believe that we are never truly lost, and that God will always bring us home, but we as a religious community must also believe this.

I gave this message in Meeting for Worship on Sunday. After Meeting I attended a Bible study session. The Friend who was leading the session told us the story of how she came to choose the passage we were going to read. She said she had written everything out after being told she was going to lead Bible study at the conference, but then one Firstday she had been sitting in Meeting and had gotten a leading for us to read Genesis 16 in Bible study. She said she had no idea why the Spirit was leading her to this passage but she trusted in the Spirit and changed her plans for the Bible study. Genesis 16 is the story of Hagar, who is a slave to Sarai, and conceives a child by Abram. She then looks with contempt on her mistress who cannot conceive, so Sarai deals harshly with her and Hagar runs away into the wilderness. There she sees an Angel of the Lord who tells her she will have a son and what to name him. Hagar then realizes she is talking to the Lord and names him El-roi or literally “God who sees.” She is the only Old Testament figure that I know of to directly name God.

Today as a Young Friend in Residence intern I think a lot about having faith. Hagar had faith, when she had no reason to, she trusted God when she was in the worst situation a person could be in and God found her important enough to come down and talk to face to face. I think about having the faith to make changes to go out into the wilderness even when it feels like we don’t know where God is leading us. I think about the faith it takes to come home again. To say “yes this is what God wants for us.” If YFIR has taught me nothing it is as friends it isn’t good enough to have faith in just yourself and your relationship with God. You need to have faith in each other and their relationship with God even if it looks nothing like your own. You have to say, “trust that you are Spirit led too, even if you use completely different language from me.” YFIR has taught me to say, “lets take a change and build something that’s never been there before.” Its also taught me to step back and acknowledge that sometimes you can’t invent the wheel twice and there are Friends out there who have done some of this work before.

Friends we need to have faith: faith in God, faith in ourselves, faith in each other. The faith to go our into the wilderness and meet God face to face and the faith to come home

11 comments:

Bill Samuel said...

There is a certain tendency to go into an "I'm OK, You're OK" mode. While we all need affirmation, what this communicates is that no one needs to change, when in fact we all do.

A better approach might be "I'm broken and need to change in X way. How about you?" A good spiritual community is supportive of the transformation of each other.

When people open up about their need to change, it opens space for others to do so also. Then we can encourage each other in that, without judging.

Faith said...

I agree that it is dangerous to just sit in the "We're all okay" place. But I don't think the author was advocating for that. Being faithful and trusting God is in and of itself a transformational experience. If there is no change happening, there is no trust and our relationship with God and others are both withered.

To continue drawing the story of Hagar, God tells her of her pregnancy but also that she must go back to Abram and Sarai. I have to say this makes me confused and a little angry. Why would God call her back to a place where she is being mistreated? But God also acknowledges that she is being abused promises that she herself will have a multitude of descendants, a similar promise that he made to Abram. Somehow her return is part of a larger plan. Hagar seems to draw strength for this hard task from the very fact that God has heard her and met her in the desert. Her view of her own self worth has changed and the prospects of her descendants have been elevated.

All this is a good reminder of a small sign my mom has hanging in her home: "The will of God will never take you where the grace of God can not keep you."

Anna said...

Bill: I completely agree with you loving transformation is what the Religious Society of Friends needs and is crying out for. In fact that is what this article is all about. :~)

"Being faithful and trusting God is in and of itself a transformational experience. If there is no change happening, there is no trust and our relationship with God and others are both withered."

thank you Faith that is a beautiful way to articulate exactly what I was trying to say in this article.

I struggle with God sending Hagar back as well. That is the part of the story I understand the least. The only thing I can think of is sometimes God doesn't physically lift us above suffering but instead gives us the strength and the love to continue on through it.

Lawrence said...

Anna, you speak beautifully. I am so blessed to know you and have the benefit of your thoughts.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

привет, Да не может быть!

Anonymous said...

Hi, i just want to say hello to the community

oakleyses said...

coach purses, louis vuitton, louis vuitton outlet, ray ban sunglasses, michael kors outlet, coach outlet, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, kate spade outlet, prada handbags, oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, tiffany and co, chanel handbags, oakley sunglasses, louboutin, burberry outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, tiffany and co, burberry outlet, nike free, coach outlet store online, gucci outlet, louis vuitton handbags, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton outlet stores, michael kors outlet, air max, polo ralph lauren outlet, louboutin outlet, true religion jeans, true religion jeans, kate spade handbags, longchamp handbags, tory burch outlet, jordan shoes, louis vuitton outlet, christian louboutin shoes, nike shoes, michael kors outlet, air max, coach factory outlet, prada outlet, longchamp handbags, louboutin

oakleyses said...

ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren, sac louis vuitton, sac hermes, mulberry, north face, air force, nike tn, ray ban pas cher, vans pas cher, hollister, abercrombie and fitch, michael kors pas cher, nike roshe, nike air max, sac burberry, sac longchamp, hollister, nike blazer, nike trainers, hogan outlet, polo lacoste, louboutin, new balance pas cher, air jordan, converse pas cher, nike roshe run, louis vuitton uk, north face, michael kors, nike free pas cher, barbour, longchamp, nike free, sac louis vuitton, vanessa bruno, michael kors, sac guess, timberland, air max pas cher, true religion outlet, true religion outlet, louis vuitton, air max, oakley pas cher, ralph lauren, lululemon, air max

oakleyses said...

jimmy choo outlet, ugg boots, new balance shoes, birkin bag, vans shoes, soccer jerseys, canada goose, north face jackets, chi flat iron, mcm handbags, canada goose uk, insanity workout, ugg pas cher, asics running shoes, instyler, nike huarache, p90x, giuseppe zanotti, bottega veneta, valentino shoes, nike roshe run, ferragamo shoes, canada goose, moncler, abercrombie and fitch, herve leger, hollister, nfl jerseys, soccer shoes, longchamp, mont blanc, mac cosmetics, ugg australia, lululemon outlet, ugg, babyliss pro, rolex watches, canada goose outlet, marc jacobs, north face outlet, celine handbags, ugg boots, ghd, reebok outlet, wedding dresses, beats by dre, canada goose, uggs outlet, canada goose jackets

oakleyses said...

coach purses, louis vuitton, louis vuitton outlet, ray ban sunglasses, michael kors outlet, coach outlet, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, kate spade outlet, prada handbags, oakley sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, tiffany and co, chanel handbags, oakley sunglasses, louboutin, burberry outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, tiffany and co, burberry outlet, nike free, coach outlet store online, gucci outlet, louis vuitton handbags, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton outlet stores, michael kors outlet, air max, polo ralph lauren outlet, louboutin outlet, true religion jeans, true religion jeans, kate spade handbags, longchamp handbags, tory burch outlet, jordan shoes, louis vuitton outlet, christian louboutin shoes, nike shoes, michael kors outlet, air max, coach factory outlet, prada outlet, longchamp handbags, louboutin