Humility and Trust

In a recent article… Rowan Williams notes that we are these days pressured to assume that there is only one way of knowing our world. We talk as though only the analytic, causal mode of picturing reality had any authenticity…

For a modern mind, subject to the pressures Williams refers to, we may more naturally locate the motivation [to action in a Quaker context] in a set of values and principles. But values and principles are merely a hedge we do not act outside of. A great many things would accord with “Quaker values” and we cannot possibly do them all. We do not do what we do because we are Quakers with Quaker values. Instead, we use our bodies and breath and the passion generated by our memories and histories to express the movement of the Spirit. We are not interchangeable with each other. If we assume concerns arise in the mind as a logical response to information, one moderately energetic Quaker is as good as another. Sometimes, in the light of this perspective, we find one individual trying to move others into action by argument… But this is to treat each other as potential troops to get behind an action; it is to take a simplistic political position…

But it is a painful fact: with humility and trust we have to become aware of being our complete, embodied selves, bringing God’s kingdom to life by that means, not by having good ideas and putting them into action… It is as a part of a living body that we move and are moved…

But, settling into silence in a room together is, for all its simplicity a powerful ritual… Above all, we are present, together, in our bodies. There, in the stillness, we witness each other’s deep feelings. We sit in the warmth generated by each other’s bodies, hear the catch in another’s breath, see the tears in each other’s eyes and are moved.

Lucy Faulkner-Gawlinski, Quaker Voices Vol. 5 No. 4

Lucy’s article “speaks to my condition” in the old Quaker phrase. I have to confess that all too often I am the one trying to get myself to do things because I see myself as a Quaker, with Quaker values. It takes a great deal of stillness, and of silence, to get myself to stop trying to argue, and guilt-trip, myself into actions that I have not been called to, but which I perceive as being a good idea. I even imagine, sometimes, that others are trying to do this to me, when they are not.

But among Friends, at least when we are being Friends together fully, the motivation to any action – or indeed to refrain from any action – is not located in a set of values and principles. It is located in our perception of the Spirit’s leading, in the promptings of love and truth in our hearts. It does take a great deal of humility and trust to rely on those promptings, rather than on argument and political analysis. Above all, it requires us to risk appearing foolish, or lazy, or fainthearted, even to ourselves, as we wait in our own silence and inaction for God’s promptings in the depths of our being.

It should be simple enough. The opening words of our Advices and Queries put it perfectly clearly: “Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.”

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