A number of years ago, while at our Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions, I said the following:
In traveling many places this year and worshiping with Friends, I have seen that it’s not about boundaries, it’s about centers. In all the meetings and here in this gathering, what keeps rising is the image of a web, which starts from the outside. It is anchored there and grows inward. All it needs to concern itself with is how firm the anchors are and how it can grow inward. So it is with our meetings — our anchors are on the outside, and we are called to grow inward strongly. It’s in our meetings that we’re called to move into the place of love, where, in covenant community, we can discover and use our gifts. Everywhere there are gifts arising, and they are evident everywhere. But we’re still tending just to see them as individual gifts and we really need to do better in recognizing as a body, corporately, where we are and these gifts within that context.
As I came across this recently, I was surprised at how relevant and alive this statement still is for me.
When I am in that most centered, most deep listening and grounded place, I can be well used in ways I could not fathom otherwise. This place of dedicated focus on the Inner Life clears away distractions, gives me strength, and allows the gifts I carry on behalf of our community to be fully realized. But I can only do that Work, or any Work at all, with the specific tools I am uniquely given.
I’ve heard it said in various places that Quakers, despite our small numbers, have often been in the “right place at the right time” in terms of creating God’s kin-dom on earth. I would not limit that to only Quakers of course – but to anyone who lives into their gifts as a part of the community. I wonder if that outside, worldly effectiveness is a result of not just being in the right place at the right time – but being the right person in the right gift, all of the time.
“…do not depend on the hope of results. …you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.” – Thomas Merton
As I stumble along on this blessed path of Spiritual engagement and practice, I make more sense of Merton’s words. This taking of the next step, feeling the rightness of the path even when it does not seem “effective” by the world’s standards, often results in exactly being uniquely well used. I find, then, my piece of the work is connected in this web of faithfulness with others, and shared in community.
As I embark on a summer of travel among Friends, I am eager to learn more about how other Friends have felt their gifts emerge, and found their gifts supported in our communities of Faith and Practice.