Saturday, July 11, 2009

Time and Discernment: Abiding

I am up at 2:30 a.m. with ecclesiastical insomnia. I am reading Rabbi Jesus to help me remember what I am doing here. While taking a break from my book, I came across this reflection on discernment sent to me by the Rev. Mary Bredlau of Grace in the Desert. I found it helpful and wanted to pass it on. Of course, none of us in General Convention can afford to concern ourselves with only a few issues. We have to take it all to heart. But the idea about abiding in relationships applies here, and the idea about discernment of callings is generally essential to a servant life. So I wanted to share it:

On staying with what we are called to do, not just plunging into everything we are asked to do.
Practice Integrity [Practicing Spirituality with Quakers]
Fidelity costs energy and time, maybe a lifetime. Every firm yes we say requires many firm nos. After Quaker Meeting one Sunday I was talking with the man who visited prisoners in jail, when a young woman approached, breathless with excitement, to ask if he would join the board of a new peace group she was organizing. In a rush of words, she told him why the cause was crucial, why the time was ripe, why she absolutely needed his leadership. Knowing this man's sympathies, I figured he would agree to serve. But after listening to her plea, he gazed at her soberly for a moment, then said, "That is certainly a vital concern, worthy of all your passion. But it is not my concern." The challenge for all of us is to find those few causes which are peculiarly our own, those to which we are clearly called, and then to embrace them wholeheartedly.
If your goal is to find a center, a focus, a gathering place within your life, then you would do well to practice fidelity. By slowing down, abiding in relationships, staying in place, remaining faithful to a calling, we create the conditions for paying attention, for discovering depths, for finding a purpose and a pattern in our days. Fidelity enables us to orient ourselves, to know with some confidence where we are. It provides continuity, enabling us to see how things change, what is endangered, what persists. It keeps us from drifting, keeps us from hurrying through our days. "The reason why we don't take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving," says Thomas Merton. If we could only be still and look about, we'd realize that we already "have what we seek. We don't have to rush after it. It was there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us." — Scott Russell Sanders in Hunting For Hope

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