Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Discovered Friend

Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's' Theology Conference
June 8-11, 1995

"... What canst Thou say ?
Art Thou a Child of Light,
and hast walked in the Light;
and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God ? _____ George Fox

Blessed rather are those who hear and understand the word of God and follow it ! _____ Luke 11:27-28

I am a Child of Light. I have known this from a very early age, from my earliest memories, that I felt Gods' presence. Whether this was totally from divine inspiration or from early teachings, or from a combination of both, it is not possible at this age of fifty-four to discern My grandparents were from German Reformed and Lutheran backgrounds and from the age of six, when we moved away from the town of my birth, I was raised in the United Presbyterian church.
My childhood, in the rural hills of Western Pennsylvania, offerred much opportunity for solitude. Many hours were spent walking in the woods and communing with God and being in awe that I was privileged to be a part of this wonderful creation. The only memories that I have about any context of this communing are, in general, asking for understanding and for guidance in doing Gods' will, which is evidence that some teachings were at work there.
The full impact of what it means to me to be a Child of Light did not really come to the forefront of my consciousness until just a few years ago when Nelson Mandela was being released from twenty-seven years in a South Africa prison and stories of his life were available. I read of his dignity and of the respect that even the prison guards had of him and wondered how this could be. How could someone who had spent twenty-seven years in prison still retain even a shred of dignity, and where did he get it in the first place ?
Then the newspaper articles told of his being a prince of a royal household and I thought, of course, he is royalty, that is where his sense of dignity came from. And I wondered what it would be like to have had that sense of dignity that this would have conferred, to have been treated by all those around you from birth with respect and honor and nobility. And then I had the thought, I am a Child of God, created in the image of God, what could be more royal or noble than that ? What could the world be like if we all truly knew and acted on the knowledge that being a Child of God is our birthright ? How would we all be different if we treated each other from birth as sacred, holy Children of God, each created in the image of the Divine ? I have walked taller, with my head held higher since that day, and have seen the rest of Gods' creation through different eyes, through the eyes of one who knows that we are all birthright Children of God.
Paying attention to how the Spirit or Divine Presence manifests itself through the lives of others is one way in which I learn to walk in the Light and; therefore, I try and bear witness to these manifestations in my own life, so that perhaps others may also have an opportunity to learn through my experiences. In worship sharings and in meetings for worship, I have received powerful insights and sometimes leadings from the Inward Teacher through others sharing their experiences of the Divine Presence in their lives and seeing a commonality with an experience that I may have had. On a few occasions, I have been powerfully seized upon to speak in meeting for worship and been approached by Friends afterward with tears in their eyes for the message that was given was so meaningful in their lives.
I have been a seeker all of my life. Even though there have been a few long, fallow periods when the ground was being prepared for the seeds, I have never felt abandoned by God, but rather, have felt a guiding hand through all of my human endeavors, work, family, relationships, and spiritual communities. In my early twenties, I "converted" to Catholicism. One of the tenets that I was drawn by was the authority of conscience, but it did not seem in the end that this was actually practiced or honored. When I came upon Quakers in my early forties, it was like a thunderclap from the heavens, the recognition that this was actually where I belonged all along, I just didn't know about it yet. It is for this reason that I consider myself not a convinced Friend, as I did not need to be convinced of anything, but a discovered Friend.
So, it seems that no matter through which avenue I have been led to seek the Divine, God has been there, whether in the United Presbyterian church of my childhood, the Roman Catholic Church of my youth, or the Religious Society of Friends of my adulthood. It has been my experience that the Divine Presence cannot be contained by any humanly devised belief system, but is present in and encompasses all of our systems of belief. Faith is from the grace of God and it is comforting to know that my faith will not be limited by my belief. I believe that it is a holy obligation to listen for the word of God in all the ways that are possible; through prayer, worship, reading the bible and other inspired writings, observing how God may be revealing through other religions to people of other cultures, and engaging with others in mutual discernment of how we might fit into Gods' plan, both individually and corporately, and to realize our relationship to each other in God.

Jami Hart
Multnomah Monthly Meeting
22 January 1995

Member since 1983

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