Category Archives: statement of faith

Bi-religious Duality

There’s often an underlying tension when one professes to be a member of two religions. There’s the constant challenge of “Well, how can you be both X and Y?” And often one avoids answering the question by either outright ignoring it or starting a long convoluted explanation about how even though these two religions seem to have differences, they’re really not all that different when all is said and done.

Except sure they are, or you wouldn’t find it necessary to be part of both. You would be satisfied with one religion and wouldn’t feel the need to have two.

I am both Quaker and Buddhist. These two religions do have some similar beliefs—Quaker’s “that of God” is comparable to Buddhism’s bodhichitta or the idea that anyone can find enlightenment, not just monks—and some similar practices—when I sit in Meeting for Worship or for meditation, physically I am doing the same thing—but Quakerism is not Buddhism and Buddhism is not Quakerism. Nor should they be!

In this post, I’m going to focus on one of the most important theological differences I find between Buddhism and Quakerism. Now given the wide diversity of beliefs in both Buddhism and Quakerism, this post is going to involve lots of generalities and is just my understanding of what are the foundations of both religions, regardless of whether all Buddhists and all Quakers currently believe in these foundations or not.

This foundational difference is the concept of God. In Buddhism, there is no God, at least not in the personal, creative (as in, creator of the Universe) sense. The universe and all its inhabitants are, ultimately, ruled by karma, the law of cause and effect. In this sense, Buddhism is very scientific: because this happened, this then came to be, and so on. Pema Chödröm has this to say about the belief in a personal God, the kind of God who actually cares about you as an individual and interacts in the world:

“The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God… Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us… Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.”

Quakerism, on the other hand, has a foundational belief in the existence of a personal God. We sit in Meeting for Worship waiting to be Moved by Him (or Her or It or Whatever), and if we are so Moved, we stand and share the message. We believe that one can be Led. We have clearness committees to test Leadings. Now whether all Quakers today would agree that a personal God exists, we clearly believe that there is Something that has the ability to lead us. We believe in Something that can call us to an action or an inaction. We believe all can have a personal relationship with this Something without the need of a priest or outward sacraments.

Now whether Quakers today would name this Something God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Light Within, Allah, Nature, or Our Inner Goodness, this belief is not one that is found—as far as I know—within Buddhism.

The belief that I can be led—personally—by the Something seems at odds with the Buddhist belief in karma. How does a Something that can interact with me personally fit in with the Buddhist understanding of the universe as a mechanism of karma? How does that work?

It doesn’t seem to work, to be honest. Buddhist and Quaker dogma aren’t the same. They are inherently different. They come from different foundations: Quakerism is founded upon the idea of a Creator God, specifically the God of Jesus, that is accessible to all people; while Buddhism is founded upon the idea that anyone, despite current caste and past karma, can become enlightened and free from this world of suffering by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path. Quakerism in a sense encourages the individual—one has a personal relationship with God, one can be led—while Buddhism discourages the individual—the idea of a Self is ultimately a delusion. And if that is true, then how can something that doesn’t truly exist be led?

Wow, I am really over-simplifying and generalizing, aren’t I?

But what it comes down to is that practicing Quakerism and practicing Buddhism works for me—experimentally—as George Fox would say. The Buddhist practice of meditation—the maitri/metta I talked about in my last post; the mindfulness of breathing, of pain, of sound, of Being—works for me. The Quaker practice of waiting upon the Light works for me. How can I deny that I have been Led? Can I look back upon the ministry I’ve given in Meetings for Worship and dismiss the heart-pounding, body trembling that inspired me to stand and speak?

And yet, I can’t deny that there are serious differences between the two religions, and that these differences in some cases seem to be contradictory.

And so I am forced to stand in the Center, between what seems to be two choices, and wait in the tension.

Because what it comes down is that I believe more in experience than in notions. And that is something that both Buddha and George Fox would agree with.

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Moving On…

I just sent the following email to the leader of the Bible listening/study group I wrote about in in this post:

I’ve had a growing sense of discomfort about attending the Bible listening group on Tuesdays for a few weeks now. It’s finally crystallized to the point where I can voice the source of that discomfort.

I’m not a Christian.

At least, not in the sense that you all are. I don’t believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, Jesus’s divinity, or his bodily resurrection… and I don’t believe this is a failing that needs to be fixed. I do believe in his teachings and do my best to follow them, but the most I could say is that I’m ethically Christian, but not religiously.

I feel that not only would it be dishonest for me to continue attending, but I worry it could also be harmful to the group. I worry that honestly expressing my faith could make others in the group uncomfortable about expressing theirs. And I don’t want that, not at all.

I really respect you all and what the group does. I’ve enjoyed the fellowship and getting to know all of you. And I’ve especially enjoyed the opportunity to see [friend] every week and am hesitant to give that up; however, I feel that my leading to attend the group has ended.

I wish you all well and will continue praying for each of you every night. Please feel free to share this email with the group.

Leadings are strange sometimes. You think you know where they’re going to take you, and you end up somewhere completely different. I’ve been struggling with the “Am I a Christian?” question for a number of years now. I keep coming up with answers, but the question keeps returning. I won’t promise that this is the last time I’ll post on here about this question, but the sense of… relief I have now, after sending that email, is palpable. The weight has been removed from my shoulders.

I can move on now. To what, I don’t know. I will wait until that weight returns, that sense of urgency… that sense of being led returns. And then, I will follow that leading as best as I can and try to remember that only God knows why.

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“Only Breath” By Rumi (As Translated By Coleman Barks)

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

*******

There is a way between voice and presence
where information flows.

In disciplined silence it opens.
With wandering talk it closes.

This pretty much sums up my faith.

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Introducing Tenzing Chödrön

On Wednesday night, I participated in a ceremony, accompanied by my parents, members of the local sangha/meditation group, my husband, and a friend, to formally take my Buddhist Refuge, Bodhisattva, and Precept vows. During the ceremony, I was given the dharma name Tenzing Chödrön, which means “truth light holder of the teachings”. The ceremony was very moving for me and the vows settled on me like the kata shawl that was placed on my shoulders at the end of the ceremony. I will do my best to keep them.

Ceremony for Renewal of Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows and Taking of Precept Vows; July 21st, 7:00

T: Opening vocal mantra meditation and gratitudes:

Ringing of finger cymbals, “Om mani padme hum” repeated 27 times.
Gratitudes: I give thanks to the Dalai Lama, who first planted the seed of Dharma in me; and to Mary Rose O’Reilly and Thich Nhat Hanh for encouraging the seed of Dharma to grow; and to Chogyam Trungpa and Pema Chodron for the Dharma of Shambhala; and to Patrul Rinpoche for revealing the connection between emptiness and compassion; and to Shantideva for illuminating the way of no-self and bodhichitta; and to Jetsun Milarepa, for revealing the importance of dedication and life-long practice; and to the Buddha for realizing
the Dharma. Finally, I am grateful for this human life and the opportunity it provides to practice the Dharma.
(T places offering of flowers near Buddha statue and Chenrezig image)

ROB/READER: Reading from Buddha’s “Sermon at Benares”:

The Buddha said: “The spokes of the wheel are the rules of pure conduct: justice is the uniformity of their length; wisdom is the tire; modesty and thoughtfulness are the hub in which the immovable axle of truth is fixed. He who recognizes the existence of suffering, its cause, its remedy, and its cessation has fathomed the four noble truths. He will walk in the right path.
“Right views will be the torch to light his way. Right aspirations will be his guide. Right speech will be his dwelling-place on the road. His gait will be straight, for it is right behavior. His refreshments will be the right way of earning his livelihood. Right efforts will be his steps: right thoughts his breath; and right contemplation will give him the peace that follows in his footprints.

“Now, this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning suffering:

“Birth is attended with pain, decay is painful, disease is painful, death is painful. Union. with the unpleasant is painful, painful is separation from the pleasant, and any craving that is unsatisfied, that too is painful. In brief, bodily conditions which spring from attachment are painful.

“This, then, O bhikkus, is the noble truth concerning suffering.

“Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the origin of suffering:

“Verily, it is that craving which causes the renewal of existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction now here, now there, the craving for the gratification of the passions, the craving for a future life, and the craving for happiness in this life.

“This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the origin of suffering-

“Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the destruction of suffering:

“Verily, it is the destruction, in which no passion remains, of this very thirst; it is the laying aside of, the being free from, the dwelling no longer upon this thirst.
“This then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the destruction of suffering-

‘Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the way which leads to the destruction of sorrow. Verily! it is this noble eightfold path: that is to say:
“Right views; right aspirations; right speech; right behavior; right livelihood, right effort; right thoughts; and right contemplation.”

MOM/READER: Reading from “The Way of the Bodhisattva” by Shantideva:

Harmful beings are everywhere like space itself.
Impossible it is that all should be suppressed.
But let this angry mind alone be overthrown,
And it’s as though all foes had been subdued.

To cover all the earth with sheets of leather—
Where could such amounts of skin be found?
But with the leather soles of just my shoes
It is as though I cover all the earth!

MOM/READER: Reading from the “Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa”:

…one’s own body suffices as a good temple,
For the vital points within are Heavenly Paradise.
One’s own mind suffices as the Guru,
For all true understanding comes from it.
The outer phenomena suffices as one’s Sutra,
For they are all symbols of the Liberation Path.
T: Renewal of Refuge Vows (repeated 3 times):

I take refuge in the Buddha, the one who shows me the way in this life.
I take refuge in the Dharma, the way of understanding and love.
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.

T: Reading from Shantideva’s “The Way of the Bodhisattva”:

Through these actions now performed
And all the virtues I have gained,
May all the pain of every living being
Be wholly scattered and destroyed!

For all those ailing in the world,
Until their every sickness has been healed,
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse, the medicine itself.

Raining down a flood of food and drink,
May I dispel the ills of thirst and famine.
And in the aeons marked by scarcity and want,
May I myself appear as drink and sustenance.

For sentient beings, poor and destitute,
May I become a treasure ever-plentiful,
And lie before them closely in their reach,
A varied source of all that they might need.

My body, thus, and all my goods besides,
And all my merits gained and to be gained,
I give them all and do not count the cost,
To bring about the benefit of beings.

T: Renewal of Bodhisattva vows:

I vow to stay in this eternal cycle of samsara until all beings have achieved
release from this cycle. (x3)

Just as all the previous Sugatas, the Buddhas
Generated the mind of enlightenment
And accomplished all the stages
Of the Bodhisattva training,
So will I too, for the sake of all beings,
Generate the mind of enlightenment
And accomplish all the stages
Of the Bodhisattva training.

Now my life has become fruitful. I am fortunate to have attained a precious human existence. Today I am born into the family of buddhas. I am a bodhisattva. From now on, whatever happens, I will only perform actions that are in accordance with the supreme qualities. I will act such that I will never stain the perfect and supreme qualities of the buddhas.

BOB/READER: Another reading from the “Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa”:

Again the Jetsun [Milarepa] gave Gambopa the Initiation of Expression-Samadhi and said, “I have an unusually profound pith-instruction, but it is too precious to give away. Now you may go!” Milarepa then sent Gambopa on his journey, himself remaining where he was. When Gambopa had crossed the river and reached a distance from whence he could barely hear the Jetsun’s voice, Milarepa called him back, saying, “Who else but you would deserve to receive this most precious pith-instruction, even though it is of too great a value to be given away? Now come here, and I will impart it to you.” In great joy Gambopa asked, “Should I now offer you a Mandala?” “No, it is not necessary to offer me one. I only hope that you will cherish this teaching and never waste it. Now look!” Saying this, Milarepa pulled up his robe, exposing his naked body covered with lumps of callus. “There is no profounder teaching than this. See what hardships I have undergone. The most profound teaching in Buddhism is to practice…”

T: Precept vows:

In order to live my life in accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path, I take up the following vows:
I take up the way of speaking truthfully.
I take up the way of speaking of others with openness and possibility.
I take up the way of meeting others on equal ground.
I take up the way of cultivating a clear mind.
I take up the way of taking only what is freely given and giving freely of all that I can.
I take up the way of engaging in sexual intimacy respectfully and with an open heart.
I take up the way of letting go of anger.
I take up the way of supporting life.

SHARON/READER: Reading from the Dhammapada:

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And the habit into character.

So, watch the thought and its way with care
And let it spring up from love
Born out of concern for all Beings.
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.

BUDDY/LARISSA: Receipt of Dharma name and shawl

BUDDY/LARISSA: Dedication of merit:

May the merit and virtue accrued from this work,
Adorn the Buddhas’ Pure Lands,
Repaying the four kinds of kindness above
And aiding the those suffering in the paths below.

May those who see and hear of this,
All bring forth the resolve for Bodhi,
And when this retribution body is over,
Be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

May every living being, our minds as one and radiant with light,
share the fruits of peace, with heart of goodness, luminous and bright.
If people hear and see, how hands and hearts can find in giving unity,
may their minds awake, to Great Compassion, wisdom and to joy.

May kindness find reward; may all who sorrow leave their grief and pain;
may this boundless light break the darkness of their endless night.
Because our hearts are one, this world of pain turns into Paradise;
may all become compassionate and wise; may all become compassionate and wise.

End.

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Buddhist and Quaker

I received an email from a reader, asking me questions about being both Buddhist and Quaker. Below is my reply:

Hi. Thanks you for your email. 🙂 I’m also not a fan of most “New-Agey” type of books… I consider myself both a Buddhist AND a Quaker, and I ultimately think this is okay and not inconsistent because both faiths–at their core, I feel–are faiths of practice more than faiths of theology. For example, meditation, mindfulness, developing compassion/loving-kindness, and the knowledge that attachments are a direct cause of suffering (in short, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path) I consider the core of Buddhism (and I’m in good company: Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a wonderful book called “The Heart of Buddha’s Teachings”, which you might be interested in). As for Quakerism, I believe our way of worship and our testimonies are our core. And there seems to be a lot of ways that Buddhism helps my Quakerism: for example, how could I follow the testimony of Integrity without having Right Understanding (one of the Eightfold Paths)? Equality lines up with Right Action, Right Speech, Right Vision, and Right Understanding… etc. There’s even been talk within some Quaker circles recently of “Right Relationship”, which has a lot in common with the Buddhist Eightfold Path (Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Understanding, in particular).

As for specific practices, I try to meditate every day (Om mani padme hum…), though I admit that this has been on and off for a while. Still, I keep trying. Also, the Tibetan Buddhist concept of tonglen (Pema Chodron is an EXCELLENT, life-changing Buddhist writer–I highly recommend any of her books to you… and when I say life-changing, I mean that literally) has been helpful for me. Tonglen is a form of breath meditation where you open yourself to another’s suffering: you breathe in their suffering, and breathe out peace/calm/etc. I find it helpful in developing compassion, especially towards those I’m angry with. The practice of mindfulness–being IN the moment–I find consistent with the Quaker Testimony of Simplicity. Meditation is also useful in centering for Meeting for Worship: I often start Meetings with a few minutes of meditation, to help quiet my own thoughts so I can better hear the Divine.

As for good books, Jim Pym (another Buddhist and Quaker) wrote one called “Listening to the Light”, which is mainly about Quakerism, but also about his experiences as a Buddhist as well. Mary Rose O’Reilly, who identifies as a Quaker, wrote a memoir called “The Barn at the End of the World” about her experiences tending sheep and spending time in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Buddhist retreat in France. (This is the book that got me interested in Buddhism; I was a Quaker first.)

I suffer from a lack of participation in a formal Buddhist meditation group. I’m disabled and unable to drive the distance required for meditation sessions. I’m not in the Bible Belt, but I live in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which is pretty much Southern Christian Conservative in culture. My monthly meeting, Third Haven, is a kind of liberal oasis in the area; even that is half an hour away from me (my husband drives me to Meetings, though he doesn’t attend). There is at least one other Buddhist and Quaker at my Meeting, and I’ve made no secret that I identify as both.

I took my refuge and bodhisattva vows last May and intend to keep them. Part of that is not hiding that action.

As far as I know, no one in my Meeting has been upset or offended by my identification with both faiths. It might be helpful that I also take Christianity very seriously–I just finished reading the Bible for the second time as a whole a month ago and read the New Testament every year. I think Jesus and Buddha would have agreed on a lot. I also think Jesus and Buddha said a lot of the same things, but said them in the context of the dominant religion of the community they were in (for Jesus, it was Judaism; for Buddha, it was Hinduism).

Part of it is that I fundamentally believe that theologies (God, heaven, reincarnation, etc.) are, at their root, unknowable. In my mind, it makes no difference to me if I’m reincarnated when I die, sent to heaven, or my consciousness/soul simply ends: I try to act with compassion because I feel it’s the right thing to do, and I made the vow back in high school that I would act this way even if I’d be punished at the end (sent to hell–I was a Catholic at the time) and not rewarded.

I believe in God because I’ve felt His presence, yet I’m aware that this belief is based on a feeling and a concept. The Buddhist practice of non-attachment has taught me that what I call God, another might call something else. And that there is no way for me to know who is right, nor is that what I should be concerned about.

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A New Perspective on Jesus

I’ve been thinking about Jesus for a long time. I was raised Roman Catholic and grew up with a deep faith in God. But I was never sure about Jesus. For a while, I believed in the Trinity. I remember crying while reading about Jesus’s crucifixion in one of the Gospels when I was around 12. I felt so sad that he was killed. In a way, I grew up with Jesus. He was inspiration for moral behavior, he was my faith mentor.

And yet, there was always a sense of discomfort whenever a prayer directly addressed Jesus. (I had the same discomfort with prayers addressed to Mary, though that’s a bit off-topic for this post.) No matter what I wanted to believe about Jesus, praying to him always made feel twitchy, like telling a white lie.

As I said, this has been going on for a while. In high school, I became determined to read the whole Bible before graduation. By the time I graduated from college, I was only to Kings 1 in the Old Testament. As Christmas of 2004 approached, I decided it was time to finish the Bible. My goal was the end of Lent 2005… and I succeeded. In the winter of 2006, I found Richmond Lattimore’s translation of the New Testament. Since then, I start reading the New Testament around Christmas and finish by the end of Lent.

All this to say that I’ve read the New Testament at least 4 times now and have been waiting for clearness on this for over 15 years. All this, also, to delay revealing a discernment that has been growing in me since childhood and only became clear to me while randomly talking about Jesus with my husband last night.

I don’t believe Jesus was God. I don’t believe he was the son of God, at least not in the virgin birth, unique way most Christians do. What I do believe is that Jesus was a son of God, in the same way that we’re all sons and daughters of God. But most of all, I believe Jesus was a man–just a man–who was able to connect with God on such a deep level that he and God became united. Jesus lived and breathed God’s will. By the time of his death, he was One with God.

And this is so important, because if Jesus was just a man, if there was nothing unique or special about his birth, this means that all of us have that same opportunity to become united with God. We don’t get to say, “Well, Jesus was Jesus. I’m only human, after all!” as an excuse for our spiritual failings.

We all can connect with God. We all have that potential within us to follow Jesus’s path to God, to live in “the way and the truth and the life”.

And one of the best ways to do this, in my experience, is by reading the New Testament and becoming familiar with Jesus’s life and teachings. He said more than “Love your neighbors as yourself” (and he wasn’t even the first to say that anyways!). His life reveals the importance of fellowship, of solitude, of prayer, of ministry, of healing, and of constructive criticism.

So, now I know the answer to the “Am I Christian” question that I’ve been asking myself for the last few years. Yes, even though many Christians wouldn’t agree with my theology. I am a Christian because I try to follow Jesus and because the New Testament is my primary Holy Book.

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Quaker Quaker

This post is actually not about Quaker Quaker, but about the idea of a Quaker Quaker, which was explained a bit here:

If we became a religious society of Finders, then we’d need to figure out what it means to be a Quaker-Quaker: someone whose theology and practice is Quaker. (Quoted from here)

The past few months have been trying for me, as I’ve struggled with labels: whether I can call myself a Christian or not, whether I’m a Buddhist or not. I never questioned whether I was a Quaker, because I am that to the core of my being: but I questioned what kind of Quaker I was: was I a Christian Quaker? a Buddhist Quaker? or a (simplicity forbid!) Christian Buddhist Quaker? how about a Buddhist Christian Quaker? Or maybe a Quaker Buddhist Christian? What about a Universalist Christian Buddhist Quaker?

All along, the answer was right there in front of me each day when I checked the Quaker Quaker blogs: I’m not a Christian Quaker or a Buddhist Quaker or any of those other hyphenated Quakers (that oddly enough aren’t hyphenated) I listed above. I’m just a Quaker. I guess I could say I’m a Quaker Quaker, but that seems a bit redundant.

I found my label over a year ago, when I first realized that Quakerism was the right place for me to be spiritually and was already my spiritual home. But then things got complicated. Conversations with my sister-in-law made me question whether I was Christian or not; going to church (Catholic and Episcopal) for holidays made me uncomfortable. I started feeling the need to define myself further: okay, I’m a Quaker, but what kind of Quaker am I?

When it became increasingly clear to me that I’m just not comfortable calling myself Christian, I started becoming more interested in Buddhism. And I’ve learned a lot from Buddhism, mainly practices that have allowed me to become a more compassionate, friendly person. (And one great trick for dealing with my mind wandering during Worship: just think “Thinking!” whenever I catch a thought and then let it go and start again.)

I enjoy Buddhist practices, especially tonglen (check it out for yourself; it’s such a wonderful idea), but the truth is that I just don’t believe in Buddhist faith. I like the idea of karma as an inspiration for compassion, but I don’t really believe in it. It’s so tempting to me with Sugar dying to believe in reincarnation so that I can dream about meeting her again, but reincarnation just doesn’t feel that real to me. I like following Jesus’s teachings, as he is such an example to me of someone who led their life in complete accordance with God’s will. But I’m uncomfortable with the theology of Christianity.

When I call myself a Quaker, I do it with no reservations. Both Quaker practice (Meeting for Worship) and Quaker faith (that everyone has an equal share of the Light) are things that feel real to me. There are no explanations needed when I say I’m a Quaker (unless the person I’m talking to doesn’t know what a Quaker is). If I tried to say I was a Christian or a Buddhist, I would have to explain exactly what I meant and would know that a significant percent of Christians/Buddhists wouldn’t agree that I was one.

I’m just a Quaker, plain and simple.

[EDIT: I feel the need to add that I have nothing against hyphenated Quakers. If you feel that you are both Christian and Quaker, or Pagan and Quaker, etc., then there’s nothing wrong with calling yourself by both names.]

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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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Statement of Faith

Disclaimer: This is not meant to become my own personal creed. It’s just an exercise so that, perhaps years from now, I can go back to this statement and see what’s changed and what hasn’t. This is also not meant to encompass all of my beliefs, just what comes to mind at this moment.

I believe in one God with infinite faces. He created the universe and all that is in it (perhaps as the “Prime Mover” Aristotle speaks of). But He also left His mark.

I believe in Jesus the man, who spoke in parables, and was crucified.

I believe in Jesus as a mediator between us and God. I believe in Him as the image we are given of one of God’s many faces.

I believe in the Holy Spirit as the sight that allows us to see God, and that within us that leads us to him. I also believe in the Holy Spirit as God’s fingerprint or mark upon all of His creations. When I speak of “that of God” or “the Light within” or “the Christ within”, this is what I mean.

I believe that heaven and hell are not physical places, or metaphysical locations for the soul, but conditions that reflect the soul’s closeness or distance from God.

I believe that life is sacred.

I believe that I am not capable of accurately judging anyone but myself.

I believe that all creation, people as well as animals, must be treated with respect.

I believe that people are inherently good and that I should react to that of God in each person.

I believe that I can find God best in silence, but also believe that He can be found at any moment.

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