from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel
Mary Lord worked professionally in the field of peace and security for 30 years, including as Assistant General Secretary for Peace and Conflict Resolution for the American Friends Service Committee and with the program on peaceful prevention of armed conflict for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. She was the Henry J. Cadbury scholar at Pendle Hill in 2009-10. A member of Adelphi Monthly Meeting in Maryland, she has been released by Baltimore Yearly Meeting to work on Quaker volunteer service and Friends Peace Teams. She also served for six years as deputy director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and was a senior policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Wrestling with the Peace Testimony
What does it mean to wrestle with the peace testimony? I find myself thinking of the story in the Book of Genesis of how Jacob wrestled all night with an angel. The scene occurred as Jacob was returning home after having had to flee for many years from his brotherís anger. Jacob does not know how he will be received, given the wrong he did his brother. He has become wealthy, but he sends his family and his goods ahead of him and waits alone in the desert through the night. In the course of the night he wrestles with an angel of God; they wrestle all through the night. As morning comes, the angel wants to depart, but Jacob will not let the angel go until the angel blesses him. The angel does agree to bless him, but in addition to blessing him, he changes his name, from Jacob to Israel, and makes him lame.
Three things happened to Jacob. He was changed in his name Ė in his very identity. Names have power and meaning, especially to ancients. He was blessed and became a patriarch of the Jewish people. He was made lame Ė changed in body and given a burden.
It is a story of individual struggle and of the consequence of deep struggle with Godís angels in our lives. Do we, in the day that follows the dark night of the soul, find ourselves changed?
Can we change our very name, our identity?
Can we change Godís blessing, which brings a connectedness with the Divine into our daily lives? The world may see the blessing as a strange one because what the world values and what God values are different.
Are we changed in body? Do we limp under the new burden we are learning to carry? Do we limp or meander in an attempt to follow God?
To claim the peace testimony in all its strength and all its worldly frailty, is to accept a struggle that will change us and deepen our understanding of what it means to walk toward God and be led.
Mary Lord, writing in
Friendsí Peace Witness in a Time of Crisis
Ed. Nancy Irving, Vicki Hain Poorman, and Margaret Fraser
Friends World Committee for Consultation,
2005, pp. 79-80