I've sometimes mused how liberal Quakerism is often like a twelve-step program in its spirituality or perhaps the other way around. After all, in liberal Quakerism we all have a "God of our understanding" and for non-theists, even those who use the term God, that God isn't a deity at all. In twelve step programs, that God, I've been told, can be anything. I've even heard some say it can be a door knob if that god works! Others have used the acronym Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.) or Group of Drunks/Drug Addicts. I've heard many a story where someone couldn't fathom the idea of a deity or divinity, so they relied on the collective wisdom, experience and love of a group of recovering people to help them heal spiritually. I know Quakers for whom God doesn't work for them, but who find power in a Quaker meeting nonetheless. It's not a wonder to me that there are a number of recovering people (alcoholics, co-dependents, drug addicts, sex addicts) who find quite a bit of comfort and meaning in Quaker meetings.
My concept of God is an omnipresent spirit that abides within me and others, and whose mark is in all creation. Everything is made by God, designed by God. This God is the embodiment of Love, though that Love is also beyond my understanding. I don't see the love as necessarily that which makes me feel good or which will make everything go my way. But I understand that love to be one that endures, that is faithful, and that in all things, in all trials and tribulations, is ever present and lasts. The more I yield to that love, the more I act from that love, the more I come into unity with that love and therefore in unity with God. I don't believe that saves me from the fire. Rather, I believe that it stays with me whether or not the fires consume me. This love didn't save Jesus from the cross, so I don't expect any difference for me. However, this love made a miracle out of the cross and for generations to come would speak to millions of God's love and enduring compassion for his creation.
The problem I have had most of my life is learning to turn my will over to God's care. Before I got married to Russell, we went through a long process with both West Knoxville Friends in TN and Homewood Friends in Baltimore to reach clarity on our desire/call to be wed under the Friends' care. This required Friends to get to know us and get a sense of our relationship, and for the two of us to make sure that we were spiritually ready to allow these meetings to care for our marriage. That meant allowing them to step in when things were going awry (and at one point, West Knoxville Friends did so)! It also meant allowing them to help shoulder the burden of marriage, supporting us when we weren't clear how to act, behave or move forward in our relationship. They were to be our touch stones in marriage. I imagine turning my will and my life over to the care of God in such a light.
I confess, though, to the same fear that I've had for my entire spiritual journey. While I've studied Quakerism at length, and have spent some time in the Bible; while I've prayed in silence and with candles and incense; while I've been baptized in the name of the trinity and asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me, I've never trusted God to come into life and yield to his will. I've held on strongly to my own will through much of my life, trying to control every aspect of my environment. I've praised God when things went well, and sometimes when they did not; but, mostly, I was angry or sullen when things didn't go my way. Lately, I've found that my anxiety has a lot to do with not trusting that God will make all things right. I've been told that it takes time, and that once I make the decision to turn my life over to God, it doesn't all end there. There is work to be done. That is where I have stopped in the past. From the age of 12 when I first remember giving my life to Jesus until the age of 41, I have avoided the most painful part of giving my life over to the Light and allowing the Light to do what must be done.
So, what must be done? I've made the decision, again, to submit. To yield to the Divine Light Within and to be faithful to what it would have me do. That means, in my experience and understanding, giving time to God in prayer and silent waiting each day, every day, allowing the Light to search me and show me what must be changed, what must be and what must not be. It means not doing this alone, but attending meeting for worship regularly as well as other meetings where I may find encouragement, strength and hope to move beyond any patterns and behaviors which are not in keeping with the Light. This is the part I've dreaded the most, but with the help of people who've done this themselves, whether Quaker or not, I believe I can find that spiritual experience, that psychic change or, as Jesus named it, that spiritual rebirth for which I've longed.