My Meeting has been going through hard times. So much so, that it has been hard for me to write for my blog. I have been doing by prayer practice that involves asking a question and opening in succession books that have been sources of spiritual wisdom and seeing what they speak to me. So what is coming up for me right now is about the serenity prayer: “God grant me the courage to change the things I can and the serenity to accept the things we cannot and the wisdom to know the difference.” This prayer has always been a struggle for me to get clarity around because, as I have written elsewhere, being raised Quaker I was raised with perhaps an inflated sense of what I/We could change. Afterall we were the people who fought to get religious freedom for the US, to end slavery, to get woman the vote, to end the Vietnam war, etc. We also are taught to be part of all the decision making of our Meetings and to feel that every voice counts.
So when you carry that sense of personal empowerment and duty, it is very hard to draw the line of what can I change and what must I accept? Also deep in the nature of Quakerism is the search for a perfected world, for bringing God’s Kingdom down onto earth. After all we say to the world that we should act without violence, uphold the equality of all, speak the truth at all times, etc. These are not goals most of the world pursues or sees as “practical”.
Therefore, in looking at huge disappointments I currently have with my Meeting in its ability to uphold our testimonies in the face of behaviors that are not congruent with them, the difficulty to say no when no needs to be said, or to challenge something when challenging it will be a struggle, I have mainly felt the need to DO things. However, more than a year and half of doing, on my part and many people’s parts have lead to no resolution or peace.
So I am now turning towards the serenity part of the prayer or the surrender part as I experience it. I am touching into a deep learning in my years of being a therapist. As a therapist you can offer people support, encouragement, guidance, healing, and sometimes inspiration …. But in the end they are always on their own. They will make their own choices, even if inside of patterns, and sometimes those will be for growth and change and sometimes they will be to repeat destructive choices. I have had to die to my own impotence over, and over, and over again.
At first I hated that about being a therapist; but eventually I found something very true in it and actually when I stopped fighting it – something peaceful. I was able to connect to the notion described in the Bible that the Divine Parent knows everything about us, every hair on our head, judges us not because of knowing the extreme complexity with which we act and yet is there for us, always available, always ready to start a new with us, always inviting us to go towards the Light.
When I would get in touch with that reality then I could understand better that sometimes I am just a witness to the suffering, other times I am holding their intention to grow and change till they can come back to it. But mainly I could understand that I had reached the end of what I could do and had to rest in what was/is. In my morning prayers right now I found words also about stepping back from the mind trying to solve everything, from ego or frenetic action. The reminders to drop back away from the story and drop into ones true spiritual self.
I am still trying to understand what that means about commitment to beliefs that I hold as true. I don’t think I can simply walk away from those values without abandoning the manifestation of Spirit as I know it. I think it means still speaking the truth as I know it when I have the possibility to do so. But I think it means having to drop the expectation or hope for Quakers to be any kind of perfected people. It means that I will need to work in an intensive way with non attachment every day.