Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What Spirit requires

I’ve never been a Bible thumper, not even much of a reader, but Mathew 7:7-8 keeps leaping out at me:

"Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

From everywhere.  Weekend before last, it cropped up in a retreat, then bled into the next day’s worship, as we were discerning a congregational calling. Today it was the basis for a daily Thomas Keating meditation and I have yet to spend the time in lectio divina (slow, sacred reading) with it I would like.

Before then, my prayerful partner and Quaker friend, Linda, cited that passage years ago. I’d known it, but coming from her heart and lips it became unrote and grew new meaning. I don’t even remember the circumstance, just that it was vividly important.

Almost ten years ago– can it really have been that long ago? – I followed a calling to Philadelphia to attend the two-year School of the Spirit for spiritual-nurture ministry. We met a week at a time, four times a year. The first session was held at Pendle Hill, a renowned Quaker retreat and study community. Leaving a toddler and first-grader behind, I flew off to uncharted territory, meeting two women with whom I would be close on the shuttle to Pendle Hill from the airport. We arrived and were welcomed into a small, old, quirky building and asked to choose a room. Jan, one of the women, said she wanted the one she always took and Marty chose a cozy twin room on the second floor. I selected the “family” room because there was space to do yoga, a sunny porch and it kept the family I had left behind closer. That first night I fell in and out of sleep, anxious, excited and uncertain. My door had no lock, I remembered as I heard newcomers climb to their room on the stairs located at the other side. I dreamt that I was asked to stay awake all night and guard the door and wondered why I had received the unlocked room. Somehow, in the midst of the tumultuous night and the lengthy dream, Jesus let me know it was a sign that my heart was unlocked. That I had knocked and the door to my heart had been opened.

At a reunion retreat several years later, I was assigned the smallest room and, again, Jesus whispered the reason: “because it’s closest to the worship space.”

I’ve got the knocking, door opening and seeking parts down. Guess I’m currently working on the “Ask, and it will be given you.” One of my lessons is to learn to ask and receive. I find it excruciatingly difficult to ask for things for myself; others, no problem. Our Quaker minister (we consider everyone a minister, she happens to be paid and calls herself a public Friend) kindly pointed out that I can’t seem to ask for myself even when people want to give. “You are depriving them of being able to give.” That hit home. As I was preparing a retreat on naming gifts last fall, I came across the idea that a gift is not a gift unless it is received.

I have no trouble giving; it’s my nature and I have identified it (helper) as my enneagram type. I do understand that too much of my identity is wrapped up in that mask, so asking is BIG for me; big as in hard to do and big as in deeply necessary.

Our minister has encouraged me to seek funding from my Quaker Meeting for my non-profit arts exploration for at-risk kids. I did screw up the courage to ask for a summer salary, which they generously supplied.

And, I can’t tell you how many times God has answered my prayers, even just today. Fear is what interferes with my ability to humanly seek help. Fear that I will be rejected, judged and viewed as less than because I can’t take care of everything myself. Ego has had me trapped, but Spirit frees me and tells me otherwise.

• What message(s) have been swirling in my heart?
• How do they stretch me?
• How have I possibly resisted as a result?
• What happens when I have asked, searched and knocked?
• What is Spirit trying to free me of?

I can give
until I bleed,

then rebound
and give
some more

it’s who
I have always

how I have
built my

and yet

I am so
to ask and

for fear
it shows
my vulnerability,

which is what
Spirit requires

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