I was stunned by the scripture selection read by the person giving the message:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
– Romans 7:15-20
Where is this going? I thought. Is he really, truly going to apply it to himself? That's such a hard one.
He did, but with such grace and the ability to compassionately suggest he was not alone. He started the conversation. God speaking through so many on this particular Sunday. More vocal ministry than is usual, yet so very rich. Some stood up who have never publicly spoken. One sang a cappella from memory. Others shared deeply, reflecting on the prepared message.
What it really opened for me was a conversation about places other than the light, where Quakers so often speak of living. At times, I have wanted to shout: "What about the shadows ... don't they have a place in us as well?" I didn't have to yell Sunday; it came out naturally and lovingly.
The entire conversation danced that way. I've not before experienced a time in worship when there was this sort of elevated conversation. As if God were speaking so flowingly through her ministers. There were palpable movements of hearts. Hearts ready to share, willing to open and spill.
Another portion of the message had been about how a whole heart is a broken heart. I have learned that lesson through experience ... a long time in coming, but so very deeply ingrained in me. It is through surrender in those vulnerable and broken places that we are closest to God because there and then we give up ourselves, our ego, our insistence on independence. This is when we find oneness.
And Sunday, I believe we found it together.
• How have I explored the shadowy parts of myself?
• Can I claim them, thus exposing them to the light?
• What has my experience of God been when I am vulnerable and broken?
• How have I ministered or been ministered to through that brokenness?
• What's an experience of God speaking to me in worship?