[Dig] deep, ...carefully cast forth the loose matter and get down to the rock, the sure foundation, and there hearken to the divine voice which gives a clear and certain sound. -- John Woolman
Photo: Alvis Taurens
When John Woolman described our need to “cast forth the loose matter and get down to the rock, the sure foundation” he clarifies how we must approach our way of listening to God; we know when we are there because of the “clear and certain sound”. When Friends no longer recognize this sense of home within their spirit, we are living in the midst of the loose matter—it’s no longer a place of foundation where we are grounded and still; what brings us back to God has bumps and gaps rather than a sure path, and the depth we once called familiar has become something else entirely. Woolman also used the word “carefully” in how we would clear the way—as if we needed to ensure our practice of reaching this place was done with a particular intent. I think it is so important for Friends to bring this intention to everyday life, to consciously invite God into all the pieces of our small world and to keep our awareness of this divine connection constant and relevant. If we relegate God to a once-a-week nod at prayer, we cannot hope to bring much to committee meetings, Meetings for Worship, or Meetings for Worship with a Concern for Business. I know there are Friends who don’t see the need for silent worship or find it an inconvenience in the way of other activities. While this has always been a concern, lately my heart hurts for our Religious Society that seems to be embracing more aspects of secular process at the expense of our way of life, which at its center is our way of worship. If our worship feels empty, how can we possibly fortify our spirit to walk within a world where kindness, strength, and peace are our constantly called witness? In society today, there is such a growing and open display of hostility and cruelty in normal discourse and even legislative language. White supremacy is visibly embraced and promoted within academic and religious environments. Quakers are a people formed to “hearken to the divine voice”, and our care and depth in listening is essential to a faithful response to the needs of the world. Friends have historically met the challenges of a world in disarray, and we are always given work as God wants, but that witness always stands on the solidity of our spiritual condition. To be of use toGod requires our willingness to seek out the deep places, and to pass through the empty and shallow imposters to find a strength renewed, a spirit replenished, a leading inspired. We know in our hearts how to get there, and we know in our practice how to stay there. It’s what we bring out from there that clarifies our witness and embodies our ministry.