The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life
The first part that really struck me, since I don’t care as much as some people whether or not her ideas are truly Scriptural, although I’m happy to report that it mattered very much to her and she quite certainly proved her point, was this:
It is our job to trust that God will transform us into what or whom we are called to be. It is God’s job to do the transforming. The trick is that we have to take the means that God chooses to transform us: we don’t get to choose. We might have liked to study and preach great words but instead God gives us elderly parents to comfort and read to. We might have liked to quietly write at our computers but instead God asks us to witness in the streets of Baghdad. Some of us thought we might become Quaker nuns but instead God gave us husbands and small children to teach us patience, forbearance and forgiveness.
Smith says it is our completeness of trust in God that marks our spiritual progress.
To those who worry about this kind of trust being just an excuse to keep women housebound and submissive, I’d say that the difference is in submission to God’s will which is not the same as submission to cultural norms or human oppression. It is truly a tragedy when any person hears God’s call and is prevented from responding fully by human conceptions of gender, race or class roles.
What I’m (always?) struggling with is the concept of God’s will for us. I think I believe that God knows us and wills the best for us.
Do I really? Do I really believe in that personal of a God/Goddess/Divine Presence? If not, why not?
Does God really have a Jesus face? This I know experimentally.
Or a Jesus heart? This is one of the metaphors that feels right to me, but not on any rational knowledge basis. It's more like an anthropomorphic way for me to comprehend something more vast and mysterious than I can quite wrap my human brain around.
And how does this fit with the Quaker process for corporate discernment of God’s will?
I don’t believe that God controls the outcomes for us. I believe that we live with the consequences of our choices, and of the choices made by many humans all along the course of history. For Smith, these choices would include whether we willingly enter into and learn from the path we are given or we chafe against it, becoming either apathetic or bitter and mean along the way. For Friends more generally, this would include the consequences of the discernment of earlier Meetings.
I’m also wondering about how this relates to another book more famous outside of Quaker circles than within, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Do the classic disciplines simply enable us to trust more fully? Or are they about enacting our own transformation? Hmmm.
P.S. This blog post was brought to you courtesy of an hour of waiting outside yesterday for the UPS truck since our intercom/doorbell system doesn’t work yet. I brought my book, my tea and my notebook down and sat on the edge of the planter box, listening to the sounds of the construction site on one side and the artificial waterfall on the other. I can’t decide whether this was more an example of discipline or of indulgence. Or a delightful congruence of both.
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