Category Archives: in-laws

Liberal Quaker Concerns

Today after Meeting for Worship, we had an instructor come in to teach my Yearly Meeting’s Quakerism 101 course. During Meeting for Worship, he gave a message that I found very disturbing. The beginning of his message was how Quakers were more concerned with practical matters of faith than theological ones, which I felt kind of spoke to my condition about my last post. But then his last couple of sentences were about how fundamentalism was something that should be eradicated.

I know that this isn’t such an abnormal sentiment in liberal circles, but I don’t think it’s a good one to have. Frankly, I think we need fundamentalists to challenge our faith and provide a counterpoint to those of us with “fuzzy” faith. Likewise, I think fundamentalists need us as well. And to paint a kind of religion as an enemy makes it too easy to paint those of that religion as enemies as well. And as soon as we do that, we close ourselves off to those people. We shut them out, instead of being open to sharing with them and learning from them. I think that’s a grave mistake.

Is it easier to just wish everyone who disagreed with us, or who in our opinion have influenced the world more negatively than positively, would just disappear? Of course it is. But that’s not the reality. The reality is that those people, those fundamentalists, have that of God in them too.

Who knows how different our world would be if fundamentalism were abolished. Maybe it would be a good thing; maybe it wouldn’t be. But in my opinion, it’s not for us to try to guess how it would or wouldn’t be different. We’re gifted with the world we have now, and that world includes fundamentalists. There’s no getting around that.

During afterthoughts, I stood up and said pretty much what I’ve just shared with you all. I wasn’t happy to stand up to someone who our Meeting had invited over to teach Quakerism 101, but I felt it had to be done. I wasn’t going to sit idly while the seeds of intolerance were sown in my Meeting, which is what I felt that message had done. And I was, frankly, surprised that he had voiced it; what did that reveal about the assumptions he was making about all of us? That no one in the room knew fundamentalists, that everyone in the room would be happy if fundamentalism just disappeared?

When our guests were introduced, my breath caught as a young (i.e., my age or slightly older) married couple stood up to introduce themselves. They were Presbyterians and had come to get our perspective on things. What kind of perspective did that message give them?

Overall, though, it was one of the better Meetings for Worship I’ve attended recently. I don’t know if it’s me or the Meeting, but recently most of the messages have seemed bland and insipid to me. I’m trying to have patience, as I’ve made a commitment to my Meeting and I’m not about to break it, but it’s difficult sometimes.

After Meeting for Worship, I stayed for the first Quakerism 101 class. Unfortunately, I found it disappointing. I was surprised that George Fox’s “there is one that can speak to thine condition, Christ Jesus” account wasn’t included, as that, to me, was the start of Quakerism. When someone asked why Quakers were being imprisoned, the instructor said on charges on heresy and treason, because, for example, some Quakers claimed that Jesus was not the son of God. *pause* Maybe my history’s shaky, but I was pretty sure that early Quakers were emphatically, passionately Christian. My understanding was the heretical claim of the early Quakers wasn’t that they doubted Christ’s divinity, but that they claimed that God could speak to each one of them and that there was no need to have clergy as an intermediary. Am I wrong, or did I witness a kind of revisionist history that is more in accord with current liberal Quaker views than what really happened?

Sometimes, I just get very frustrated at my Meeting. Sometimes I feel like people are standing up because they have something to say instead of standing up because God has something to say through them. And it’s not just new attenders, either; I’ve wondered that about seasoned members as well, even about people who are on the Worship and Ministry committee with me. This makes me worry that problem is not with the Meeting, but with me.

In any case, I’m waiting for guidance about this as patiently as I can bear.

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Living Faith

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let thy gifts to us be blessed.”

Every Sunday at family dinner with my in-laws, I’ve been saying this prayer along with everyone else before we eat. A couple of days ago, it became quite clear to me that I could not continue saying this prayer if I valued being true to my faith. I’ve never been comfortable praying explicitly to Jesus because I’ve never been truly able to believe that he is God. But until fairly recently, I felt only mild discomfort saying that prayer because since I didn’t know whether or not I believed in Jesus as God, I wasn’t necessarily lying by calling Jesus Lord in that prayer.

But now that I know that I do not believe that Jesus is God, I cannot continue to say that prayer with my in-laws. At first, I thought that asking them to give me a moment of silence either before or after the prayer would quell my discomfort. But way did not open for that to happen, as my mother-in-law was not at all receptive to that idea and my husband did not think anyone else in his family would be either. He was also concerned that this desire stemmed out of the unfairness of my praying their way when they refuse to pray my way. But the discomfort, the little itch as another Quaker described it, continued and grew stronger.

I sought clarity and guidance from God on this issue, but the way was not clear to me. I knew that continuing to pray in their manner was not the right decision, but asking them to add silent prayer didn’t seem to be much of an option, either. But sometimes pieces fall into place that just seem to be random happy occurrences at first.

A couple of weeks ago, Micah Bales contacted me. I don’t remember why he contacted me, but since then he’s been a welcome spiritual companion.  I shared my dilemma with him, and a new option arose that had never occurred to me: what if I prayed in silence while everyone else prayed out loud? Part of me knew this was the option I’d been searching for, but part of me doubted still. Rob was not immediately receptive to the idea (in his defense, he was at work when I tried to talk with him about this), and asked if disturbing the peace with his family was worth this.

Rob’s earlier query about the reasons behind my desire to pray in my own way at family gatherings weighed heavily in my mind, because the truth was that I did not (and do not) think the way his family treats my faith is fair. Why do they assume their faith is more valid than mine? Why is it up to me to placate their faith at the expense of my own? Though those are valid questions, the truth is that if that (the desire for them to take my faith seriously) was behind my wanting to pray in silence instead of violence being done to my soul, then saying my faith required me to ask this of them would have been dishonest. And nothing less than my faith requiring me to ask this of them would be enough of a motivation for me to want to disturb the veneer of peace they have with my faith. So, I chose to let the matter rest until I felt moved to go forward.

While writing to a close friend of mine earlier today, the following spilled out of me:

“I’m trying to live by my faith at a time when ignoring it would be easier and when fully accepting it, and all of its consequences, will create more turmoil in my life. Turmoil I definitely don’t need right now.

But if I don’t, if I deny my faith because it’s the easier option, I will start walking down a path I don’t want to go. I can’t do that. At least now I know the ground under my feet. Take that away and replace it with someone else’s ground and my life will essentially cease to be my own.

I want to keep peace with Rob’s family, but not at the expense of sacrificing my faith.”

Suddenly, it was clear to me what I have to do tomorrow. If I pray along with everyone else, if I give in to the temptation to maintain that false peace, I will be lying to God. I wasn’t willing to do that when I was 16 and my father’s family wanted me to be Confirmed in the Catholic Church, and I am no more willing to do that now. It’s as simple as that.

It’s easy for me to believe that those people with great faith have this nice, peaceful, easy relationship with God, that they are connected to Him as easily as I am connected to the internet, that they receive His blessings like water from a faucet. I think the temptation in believing that is two-fold: first, if that’s what having great faith is like, then I’ll never have it, so what’s the point in trying so hard? second, it makes me think that having great faith is something easy, that it’s just this permanent state of peace between a person and God. I’m starting to see that faith isn’t like that. It requires sacrifice sometimes and maintaining a relationship with God no matter what isn’t easy.

Ironically, this experience has helped me learn what Jesus meant when he said things like “Those who do not hate their mother and father cannot join me” or “I have not come to unite, but to divide” (these quotes are from my memory and thus I’m sure are not completely precise). It seems that the more I become comfortable with Jesus not being divine, the more I am able to learn from his life and his teachings.

Tomorrow, when it comes time to pray at family dinner, I will ask if anyone would mind if I prayed in silence. I’m not sure what I will say if anyone says they would mind, but I’ll trust the Spirit to guide me at the time if that happens. I thank God for providing me with three avenues of discernment this week: Micah for asking me deep questions about my faith, the ability to write again through which the Holy Spirit has always guided me through times of turmoil (and which I have not been able to do consistently for years), and Rob for knowing when my choice has been made and helping me see the clearest way forward.

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Hope

I had a wonderful conversation with my mother-in-law on Friday, as she was driving me to my post-op appointment. Some background is necessary to appreciate how wonderful this conversation was for me: my mother-in-law is a fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian who takes the Bible completely literally. We’ve spoken about religion before, but the conversation was very strained. So, here’s the conversation (paraphrased, obviously, as I wasn’t taking notes at the time):

ME: You know, one of the things I like so much about Buddhism is its focus on compassion and loving-kindness, and I think they’re very important.

MIL: I’ll be nice when I’m older.

ME: I’m starting young, I guess.

MIL: You know, Jesus also spoke about love and compassion.

ME: I know! That’s one of the things I like about Him so much!

Then I changed the subject, as I didn’t want to push my luck too far. But this is definite progress and gives me hope that maybe, one day, she’ll accept that my faith is just as valid as hers and stop waiting for me to find the “true” faith, the one that’ll get me into heaven.

It’s a long shot… but moments like this make me acknowledge that anything is possible… like holding in your hand — on the outside — the metal that’s held your tendons hostage for 7 years… or finding your cat who was lost for 4 months by word of month and hope alone…

like God existing and loving you.

Happy Father’s Day, God.

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“Listening to the Light”

I ended up finishing Jim Pym’s “Listening to the Light” book yesterday. I wasn’t intending to read it quite so quickly, but Rob wanted to play a computer game for a bit; so I decided to spend my time reading instead of wasting it online.

This book is an incredible read. My only complaint is that it seems geared to two different audiences: those who know nothing about Quakers, and those who are Quakers. But he explained Quaker faith and practice in such a beautiful, concise way that I didn’t mind reading about things I’d already experienced. Reading this book felt like a breath of fresh air; when I finished it, my soul felt rejuvenated and rested… as if I’d just left a gathered Meeting for Worship. It’s been, honestly, over a month since I’ve visited my Meeting for Worship and being able to feel that rejuvenated was a wonderful gift.

This was also the first book I’ve ever read whose entirety spoke to my condition. Most books about faith that I’ve read speak partially to my condition: there are passages that do so, but there are often just as many passages that don’t. I’ve been wondering what book I should give to my sister-in-law for our next book exchange; I wanted to give her a book about faith that she could read to learn about my faith, but I worried about giving her a book when I didn’t agree with parts of it.

There was nothing in Jim Pym’s book that I disagreed with, and nothing I thought was at all offensive to anyone who believed differently. It’s written in a very open, suggestive fashion, i.e., “This is what has worked for me and many others, but if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay.” I appreciated his ability to be able to speak so clearly about his faith without ignoring that other people believe differently.

I’ve decided to give this book to my sister-in-law for our next book swap. I’m sure she won’t agree with everything in the book, but I’m hoping parts of it might speak to her. I’m also not particularly worried about her reading the book and feeling utterly convinced that I’m going to hell; because if she reads this book, she’ll have a much better understanding of my faith (and practice!) than she does now. Other than reading this blog and attending Meeting for Worship with me, I don’t think she’ll ever better understand my faith than she will after having read this book. So, if she finishes this book and still condemns my faith, at least she’ll be doing it with full knowledge of what my faith is, instead of what she thinks it is.

And that’s comforting.

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Light Reading

Since I just finished Peter Balakian’s “The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response”, I told Rob I was going to treat myself with some Light reading…

which is why I’m now reading Jim Pym’s “Listening to the Light”.

And really enjoying it so far. I borrowed it from the library, but I’m finding it so meaningful that I decided to buy it. I’ll likely donate it to my Meeting’s library, once some issues with the library get resolved. I’m also seriously considering giving it to my sister-in-law for our next book exchange.

(Yes, this entry was just an excuse for me to share the light/Light pun with you all.)

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Security

I’ve been struggling for a while with the idea of people needing God: needing Him as some sort of security blanket, needing Him to save them from hell, needing to know He’s there and has a plan for them. In the depths of my mind, I thought that the faith of these people was less valid than the faith of individuals who want God, who choose to believe in Him but don’t need to. I thought that the people in the first group had something lacking in their lives or had a weakness of personality that required them to need something stronger than themselves to cling to. I assumed I was one of the second group, the strong people who believe in God because they want to, but are self-sufficient otherwise.

But when the second phase of my arthritis flare struck on Tuesday, I was brought to my knees (quite literally) with the pain and the uncertainty. I avoided focusing on how scared I was, knowing that crying would just cause my neck muscles to spasm, thus creating more pain. But underneath my apparent lack of fear and veneer of control, I was terrified. In my journal Tuesday night, I wrote the following:

I know that God has a purpose for my pain. I will try to remain open to Him instead of closing my soul with fear’s gates.

Instead of praying for other people, I started praying for myself: “God, please grant me the strength to get through this. I don’t think I can do it without Your help.”

At 5:30 this morning, as I was stretching my knees, I started thinking about the kind of praying I’ve been doing recently. How was it different from “using God as a security blanket?”, I wondered. And then, like a whistle in the dark, it came to me:

It’s okay to need God.

It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders that I hadn’t even known was there. “It’s okay to need God.” I thought back to previous times when my health, or other situations, have broken me and how I’ve always reached for God during those times… how much I needed Him. I’ve looked to those times to inspire me in my faith, but I never realized that the only thing different about my faith in those times was that I accepted that I needed His help. I let go of my ever-present pride and said, “I can’t do this on my own. I know I can’t. I need Your help.” Needing God isn’t a display of weakness of character. It’s an acceptance of the reality that I can’t do this alone, no matter what “this” is.

When I got the leading months ago to reach out to Rob’s sister, I thought the purpose of the leading was to help her. I see now that God’s hand was slowly bringing me back to Him, in a way that I would accept. I wasn’t ready at that time to accept that I needed God; but I was ready to try to make things better between Rob’s sister and myself. I was ready to trust God to lead me, but in the depths of my being I thought He needed me more than I needed Him.

Through reading “Pretense”, as much as I found the characters’ faiths cheesy and generic, I was able to recognize my own prayers in the prayers uttered by the characters in the book. This allowed me to realize, however subconsciously, that there was something similar between my own faith and the faiths in the book. Looking back on it now, I think what repelled me most about the characters in the book wasn’t their faith, but their apparent inability to think for themselves. They seemed to swallow whatever their church expected of them and whatever the Bible told them without really thinking about it. They never seemed to question their faith or their church, and I think that’s dangerous (but that’s another topic).

My pride is still trying to restrain me from finishing this post, and from publishing it. I know now that I need God, but part of me doesn’t want to accept that. Part of me wants to believe that believing in God is still a choice, something I could change later on if I wanted to. Part of me wants a way out if this way becomes too difficult, too challenging.

You all are my witnesses as I write this: I am not self-sufficient. I cannot get through this on my own. I need God.

And that’s okay.

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The Danger of Christian Fiction (and what reading it taught me)

As our first book exchange, Rob’s sister gave me Lori Wick’s “Pretense” and I gave her Michael J. Arlen’s “Passage to Ararat”. While I was sick last week (I’m still sick, but feeling coherent enough to write today… though by the end of this entry you all might disagree with me), I decided I’d start reading through “Pretense”. By the time I got to page 200 out of 703, I realized this wasn’t going to be an enjoyable read. The characters were bland; the plot was generic; and the conversion scenes were incredibly cheesy. But I’d promised C that I would read the entire book, so I decided that I’d read it as quickly as possible… because the faster I read it, the sooner I’d be done reading it.

But the more I read it, the more I became drawn in to the story. It didn’t matter that the plot was predictable or that the characters were wooden. I’m a very empathetic person and I have an active imagination. When I read a fiction book, apparently no matter how well or poorly written, I get drawn in to the world the author is trying to create. My thoughts start to mimic the language of the story. A prime example of this comes from reading Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series, when I begin to swear in my mind just as the characters in the book do (“By the Light!” etc.). But it had been a while since I’d read through a fiction book in only a matter of days, so I had forgotten my tendency to absorb the language of the book into my thoughts and entangle the world with my own.

By the time I finished reading “Pretense”, I had been pulled in. The prayers in the book in particular reeled me in, as they were so similar to prayers I’ve uttered in the past that I could have written them. The reliance of the characters on God and their striving to do His will enticed me also, as these are both aspects of my own faith that I’ve been trying to encourage. The fellowship of the church community in the book was also alluring, as I watched the community come together to constantly encourage its members to do God’s will and continuously support them. The faith of the characters with their lack of doubts and ability to always look to the Bible for answers when they questioned was tempting.

And there was the danger. When I prayed before sleeping Saturday night, it was hard for me to come up with my own words. Phrases from the book kept slipping in. Untangling my relationship with God from the relationship presented in the book was challenging. It would have been easy for me to just give in and pretend that I was one of those evangelicals in the book I’d just read, who believed that the Bible was The Word of God and who, in my frank opinion, used God as if He were a big security blanket and very little else.

This was not a danger I’d ever encountered with any other kind of fiction. I tend to read a lot of fantasy books; and no matter how long I linger in the world the author created, there’s no real danger of my starting to confuse that world with my own. I mean, no matter how much fun I think it’d be to be able to attend Hogwarts, for example, all it takes for me to know that that’s not an option is the realization that I’ve never done anything “magical” in my life. (Of course, I could be a muggle, but if that were the case, the magical world would still be cut off from me anyways. But I digress.)

But with “Pretense”, there was no hard evidence to prove to me that the world created in the book didn’t exist… that the faith of the characters wasn’t actually my own faith. I’m sure that C would be happy to hear I was so drawn in to the book, but the truth is that if God wills for me to become an evangelical Christian (which I hope is not His will), then it would need to be heartfelt. My faith would need to be a true expression of what I believed and not just an absorption of faith presented to me in a fictional tale. God would want my real faith, not the faith I imagined for myself.

I have managed to mostly recover from reading “Pretense”, though phrases from the book’s prayers still enter my mind when I try to pray. But I think I can tell the imagined faith I read about from my real faith. But the knowledge that I can be so easily confused has me concerned. I don’t think I should read any more Christian fiction. I think that, for me, those books are dangerous. I am also worried about Quaker fiction, in that I could absorb the strength of the faith of the characters and think my own faith was as strong when it’s not. But I have not read enough Quaker fiction (I haven’t read anything but excerpts) to know if this is a real danger for me or not.

The main concern I have at this moment is trying to figure out how to tell C that I don’t want to read any more Christian fiction. I didn’t want there to be any limits set on this book exchange, for once I start setting limits then she can also set them. And I worry that if I explain the reasons why I don’t want to read anymore Christian fiction, she’ll take it to be “God softening my heart” so that I can “be saved and come to Jesus”. But I have at least a couple of weeks to figure out what to do, because she just received my book over the weekend and I doubt she’ll finish it as quickly as I did hers.

Yet reading “Pretense” was an enlightening experience for me. I learned that I don’t take C’s faith seriously, because I view it as simplistic and look down upon those who take God as a security blanket or believe that their belief saves them from going to hell. (Back in high school, I made the decision that I would believe in God no matter what the consequences… including going to hell. I didn’t agree with using God to get a reward, namely, heaven.) If I can’t take her faith seriously, how can I expect her to take my faith seriously? I’ve been a hypocrite.

Whether or not there is anything wrong with the faith of those who believe in God to avoid going to hell is not up for me to judge. That’s God’s job. What I do know is that that faith would never work for me. For me, it would be too simplistic and I would feel like I was using God. For me, it would be an imagined faith. But maybe for others that faith is as real to them as my faith is to me.

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To Pray Without Ceasing

I went into the weekend unsure of what God was calling me to do. I knew that my leading was to spend a weekend with Rob’s sister (who I’ll refer to as C from now on) and her husband (D), presumably because they’re going through some rough times and could use our support, but I was not sure what I would be called to do when we arrived there. Surely following the leading wasn’t as simple as just sleeping in her house for 2 nights. I resolved to try to be open and receptive to that still, small voice at all times, to be able to discern His will at any given moment.

Maintaining a constant state of open prayer is vital, not only for some days of greater importance, but for all days — no matter how unimportant they appear. Sometimes keeping the gates of my being open for Him is remarkably easy, as if it were just part of my nature. At other times, though, my self (and in particular my pride) rears up, threatening to not only close the gate, but bar it shut.

One of those moments happened late Saturday evening, while the four of us were heading back to her house after dining out. We’d had a suspringly pleasant visit up to that point: C belly danced with me while our husbands went out and even asked to see more videos of what it looked like; Friday evening we’d had a nice dinner out (their treat) with even some enjoyable conversation. But by Saturday evening, I was beginning to worry that I hadn’t done whatever it was I had been called to do.

C had had a bit to drink with dinner, and thus was both more open and more frank than usual. About a month ago, I had come up with the idea of a book exchange between her and me. We’d each give each one book, with the promise that we’d read it in its entirety. The goal of this exchange would be to foster understanding between us, especially with regards to our faiths and how they were similar and different. Before I could stop myself, the suggestion was out of my mouth. She agreed.

Then I went on to explain that I thought it’d be important for us to do this with the goal of furthering understanding and not to convert each other. She replied with something like, “If I knew to the core of my being that I was right and that you were doomed to suffer for eternity, would I be wrong to try to save you from that?” If I were a cat, that moment would have been when all the hairs on my body stood straight up and I braced for an all-out attack.

I tried desperately to calm myself, to still myself, and prayed earnestly for God to guide me, because I didn’t want to mess this up by a rash retort. Noting my silence, she broke it by asking, “T, you’re being awfully quiet.” I replied honestly by saying, “I’m praying.” She silenced herself while I waited for God’s will to be made manifest in me. Finally, I responded and said, “C, as long as we’re both open, I think this can still work.” Too quickly, she replied, “I’m open.”

I have my doubts about how open she is, but I can only follow where He’s leading me. Later that evening, curled up in bed, I reflected about the weekend with Rob. I shared my worry with him that maybe I hadn’t done what I was supposed to do. He told me frankly that he didn’t think anything would be gained from the book exchange I’d proposed with his sister, that she certainly wasn’t open and had very set ideas of what a Christian was supposed to be. I wholeheartedly agreed with him, but added that I wasn’t following my will on this, but God’s. I asked Rob if he thought I was a Christian. I’ve asked him this previously, and he’s always dodged the question or said that he didn’t know. I was pleasantly surprised when he said that he thought I was. I pressed him for the reasons why he thought I was, so I could later share them with his sister, and he was unable to answer.

The next morning C gave me Lori Wick’s “Pretense” as the first book for our book exchange (see my livejournal for details about what book I’m going to give to her). Rob and I left early to attend a Meeting for Worship in Charlottesville (over an hour away, but on our way home) with my friend Elliot (the same friend to whom I had trouble explaining Quakerism a couple of weeks ago). After such a charged, challenging weekend, the Meeting for Worship was rejuvenating. I was pleased to see that the group of worshippers was younger than in my own Meeting, with a median age perhaps of 40, perhaps younger. I wasn’t able to center as well as I can in my own Meeting, and exhaustion certainly wasn’t helping, but it was still nice to have the entire hour to pray in silence.

I wish I could say that since the weekend has ended I’ve become certain that I did whatever it was that I’d been called to do, but I’m not. I’m starting to feel certain that visiting C for a weekend was just the first step in this leading instead of the only step. Though I’m paying for the weekend physically, I’m grateful I followed the leading. I don’t know if a gate has been opened between me and C that will allow us to be closer, but I do know that the weekend brought me both closer to God and to Rob.

Rob’s support of my faith these past couple of months has been remarkable. It would have been easy for him to flat-out refuse to visit his sister, God calling me or not (and without Rob, it would have been very, very difficult for me to visit C… and to make it through the weekend grounded in God). He could have laughed when I told him about my leadings, instead of taking them seriously. He could have gone along with it half-heartedly instead of going out of his way to be nice to both C and D, neither of whom he particularly likes or whose company he enjoys.

I am grateful to God, for giving me this leading and for sharing His will with me. And I am also grateful to Rob, for supporting my faith unconditionally.

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Following the Leading

I’m about to get ready to go to my sister-in-law’s for the weekend, as a result of a leading (see earlier posts titled “Leadings”) I had a couple of weeks ago. I am nervous. I’m trying to relax and trust in God and trust the Holy Spirit to guide me, but I am really worried about messing this weekend up. It’s the first time I’ve ever willingly done something that I don’t really want to do as a result of feeling called to do it by God. Though, now that I think about it, that isn’t true, either. I didn’t want to send that email to my stepsister, but I did. It’s just that following this leading will last all weekend.

I know that she (my SIL) is unhappy, and I truly do wish her happiness. It’s just that my reason questions that I’m supposed to be able to do anything about her being unhappy. I know she’s apologized for her comment back in February (see earlier post “Anger”) and felt ashamed for thinking and writing it, but I don’t know if what caused that comment to arise in her has changed. If part of her, no matter how deep, still thinks of me as, essentially, someone whose environment has completely shaped her and has made no decisions, including faith, on her own, how can I help her?

And, above all that, she’s recovering from a stomach bug, which I definitely don’t want to catch from her. (I have a suppressed immune system naturally and one of my arthritis drugs suppresses it more.) Will I be able to trust enough in God to let go of my fear of getting sick from this visit?

I know that this is the Right Thing ™ to do. I just worry that I’m not strong enough to do it. And I know that, rationally, God wouldn’t have called me to do it if I wasn’t the person for this job. But I don’t feel strong.

And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe people who are unhappy respond best to people who aren’t overwhelming them with strength and clarity, but people to whom they can, on some level, relate. Maybe Corbie needs to see that my life isn’t perfect, that I struggle with my faith (will she try to poke holes in it if I tell her that and help me “find Jesus”?), that I know what it is to struggle… with family, with self, with significant others…

But each time in the past I’ve reached out to her and tried to share more of myself with her, she’s responded negatively. What will make this time any different?

Lord, this weekend, please let your Holy Spirit speak through me, as I know that I can’t do this on my own.

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That of God

I received a phone call this morning from my stepsister, who was calling to respond to an IM I sent her about a week ago asking if she’d gotten my email. It turns out she hadn’t. Temptation rose high in me at this point to write off the email as something shallow and unimportant, especially when she asked me what the email was about. As I stated previously, this isn’t a leading I particularly want to follow. I had just started to relax thinking that maybe writing the email was all I had to do.

But I told her that the email was me apologizing for not being a very good stepsister to her and her response has solidified the foreboding in me that writing the email was just the first step. She sounded genuinely touched by the email and now I must wait with trepidation for whatever God has in store for me next.

It is so often easier for us to release those with whom we disagree from our care, especially our spiritual or religious care. We see their lives and their beliefs and sometimes clearly see their errors. A feeling rises up within us to help these people, to free them from whatever is holding them back… and then we realize how much work it would take and how unlikely our venture is to succeed, and we give up before we even began.

Or we see their different faith and want to show our respect towards what they believe. And we do this by not sharing the true depths of our faith with them, thus denying them any spiritual gain from our faith and our belief.

We can know our own failings intellectually (by this I mean that we can both know our intellectual failings and know our failings intellectually), but we cannot know our deeper failings without God’s help. And God so often, knowing it is easier for us to see ourselves in others than in Him, reveals to us truths about ourselves through other people.

Knowing that these people with whom disagree are messengers from God, how can we choose to sever them from our care? When that of God becomes more than just a phrase justifying the Golden Rule and becomes a known Truth, how can we resist seeking out that Truth, no matter how disagreeable or odious the person in which that Truth resides is?

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