Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
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Readings for Reflection: April 2017
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

“If you care, do something!” This has been a core principle in my life. It is paired with the belief that if I don’t do enough, it means I don’t care deeply enough or have otherwise failed. Since I care about a lot of things, I am often in pain, believing that I have been weak, lazy or selfish for not doing something about many matters that concern me. This way of thinking leads to believing that I don’t deserve to consider myself a responsible or honorable person; and at the most extreme, that I don’t even deserve my life. After years of such pain, I tend to shortcut right to the psychological numbing that Patricia Loring mentions in the excerpt from her book, below. Her insight has refreshed me and given me hope, along with Parker Palmer’s observation, “The gift we receive on the inner journey is the knowledge that ours is not the only act in town.” I don’t know how to give this gift, although I have received it: the awareness that concerns are not my job alone, that “sufficient unto the day” might not refer literally to what can be done in time, but also to the capacity and responsibility of one person. This awareness, paradoxically, frees me to wait, sense and follow leadings with more determination than ever.
                                                                                                        ~ Lisa Klopfer

Testimonies and Spiritual Leading

In earlier periods of Quakerism, the testimonies testified or attested to the nature and requirements of God. Individuals testified to what they had experienced livingly – rather than to what they agreed with intellectually or deduced from principles. Today, we often flounder. We often fail to distinguish between testimony and principle. A testimony has spiritual force in discerning leadings. Its spiritual force comes from the experience of the Spirit to which it testifies. It comes from an experience of God breaking into the particularities of our lives, disquieting our hearts…. Principles have moral force, but they carry no personal experience of leading. Principles can be arrived at by a purely intellectual process. … When we begin from principle, or a moral generality, it is more difficult to know which circumstances of our lives constitute an encounter in which guidance by the Spirit is occurring.... Feeling the obligation of principle, rather than waiting on specific leadings by God often leads to constant pressure to act on situations all over the world. This ceaseless agitation can lead to psychological numbing.... We do well to attend to the fact that both our apathy and our distress are considerably eased when we are overtaken by a compelling leading.... It is significant that we will be led to be present for our concern, rather than assigning it to proxies.... Guidance usually comes in the unique particularity of our lives.... This stance requires enormous faith that others will be raised up to do the work to which we have not been specifically led....

~ Patricia Loring, in Listening Spirituality, Vol. II, 1999. pp. 112-113

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