Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Freedom in dying to Spirit

Strangely, I've been meeting death in a number of ways lately. During and since Lent, I have worked to surrender my false self, a death in itself. In Quaker worship a few weeks ago in London, the congregation mourned the passing of a Friend and asked the following query:
Can you accept death, make time to grieve, gain freedom and comfort others (grieving)?
In response, one member said in accepting his cancer, "you just get on with it." I took him to mean you make your peace with it, death and God. Another cited a line of poetry: light gets in through the crack. I Googled the reference and came up with a line from Leonard Cohen's Anthem:
There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in. 
As I have been slaking off jet lag and the luxury of a jam-packed two-week vacation, I watched a movie over the weekend about a widower who can barely tolerate life without his spouse until he meets a new friend. At one point, he tells her she is the crack in his dark world.

The notion speaks strongly to me, then in Quaker worship and, now. In worship, I was moved to consider the death I have been living. I admitted I had been struggling and just "wanted to get on with it as the Friend across from me said – or, better, without it. I find the advice to grieve very helpful. To take the time, so I can live in the light, my light, and follow Christ's path (freedom), so I can get on with that."

One more Friend ventured: "Accepting death means living in the present. There's only now."

I returned to the London Friends Center to spend precious time with a slight book published in 1661 by my Quaker ancestor. She, too, called for death, the death of  a Godless society. She was overcome with the message, to the point of publishing a book, presenting it to the King (Charles II) and addressing the whole of England, whom she felt lived under great darkness. She begged, pleaded and prayed for England to turn toward the light before it was too late. Her words are just as relevant today.

I walked to the British Museum, processing my time with the book, grateful to have experienced it personally. There, I headed toward the Elgin Marbles for a quick visit. Strolling the great halls of white marble, unearthed from their true homes and on display, I felt death: the ancientness of the pocked stone, the costumes of long ago and the unlikeliness of these magnificent figures lounging in a staid room and not atop the Parthenon.

A few days later, participating in a Night of Adoration at Sacre Coeur in Paris, I encountered the resurrected Christ and the other side of death. During my midnight silent prayer shift, I focused on the image of Christ overhead, painted in white and gold on the dome, his heart shining and the rays of what I call Christ energy radiating to all. To me that is the promise of Christ: we each are completely loved. And I believe that is the freedom mentioned in the Quaker query. Love is enduring and conquers even death.

I am repeating that mantra as I mourn the very recent passing of my childhood Methodist minister, who also happened to be serving temporarily at my Quaker Meeting when I was led to return. It was such an easy and natural transition that I know God's hand was in it all.

Let me grieve for the life I am leaving behind.
Let me cut the strings.
I want to be free.
Free in your love and
the wisdom that Christ's
energy continues to radiate
through me and out into
the world.
Let me live in and of that loving

• How have I been acquainted with death?
• Have I allowed time for grief?
• What freedom lies at the other side?
• From what must I die psychologically?
• What is my current prayer?

full of living
on a joyful holiday

I was surprised
by the dose of

it has sobered me
into recognizing
its truth

there is real
freedom in
dying to Spirit

and fully knowing
I am loved
for eternity

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