Answering God – 40 Days with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Day 10 – Saturday after 1st Sunday of Lent
Be honest with yourself.
What unpalatable truths might you be evading?
When you recognise your shortcomings, do not let that discourage you.
In worship together we can find the assurance of God’s love and the strength to go on with renewed courage.
(Advices & Queries #11)
From the Scriptures:
[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Be honest with yourself.
Yeah, right! If I tried that, and I suspect that I’m not alone, I wouldn’t be able to get past the Collect for Purity at the beginning of the Communion Service.
You know, the one that says;
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden…
Sadly, I know my desires all too well and, occasionally, I hate the fact the One Who Loves me Best knows all my secrets as well!
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there is anyway or anywhere I can hide from God’s gaze – 50 or so years of journeying with Psalm 139 have taught me the futility of that. It’s just that I can’t always cope with the fact that God perpetually looks towards me mostly with love and joy, but too often with love and sadness.
Why can’t I just be left all alone by myself to sulk in my sin? I know I’m worthless. I know other people don’t always think highly of me and see me as a nuisance. Why can’t I just sit and participate in a perpetual pity party and slink unnoticed into Paradise?
I know me, and I don’t always like what I see in the mirror. Yet, I seem incapable of doing much of any real significance to change things about myself. Like Sméagol I want to serve ‘the Master’ but like Gollum I want to keep ‘The Precious’ – my unpalatable truths – all to myself preferring to wallow in filth rather than allow the Body of Christ bring me the assurance of sins forgiven and hope restored.
I suspect if a poll was taken as to what Christians thought what worship was for very few would put finding assurance, courage and strength at the top of their list.
But it can be no other. The Body of Christ, to imitate The One who stretched out His hands on the Cross, always has been and always will be a wounded Body. No matter how much we try to hide from ourselves we carry the marks of our common humanity in our hearts and souls. And it is only as we learn to stand together with each other in God’s healing light and love that we will ever be able to do anything of real worth.
We cannot self-heal. We need each other to gently tend our wounds and remind us of our call to be whole. Not spending time with the Body of Christ because others may discover who we really are is as futile as refusing to go to the doctor when we know we are sick. We may get our own way and we may hide our own peccadilloes but we will also die.
Be honest with yourself there is nowhere else that we can go and simply say ‘This is me’. We might be broken and in bits but only together with our sisters and brothers can we find a place of grace from where we can grow in assurance, courage and strength.
We would have inward peace,
Yet will not look within;
We would have misery cease,
Yet will not cease from sin;
Once, read your own heart right
And you will have done with fears;
Man gets no other light
Though he search a thousand years.
1) Read slowly the note from ‘Advices & Queries’ above again
2) What is the ‘Big One’, the unpalatable truth about yourself you’ve been evading – we all have at least one.
Name it and then give it away to the One Who Loves You Best.
P.S. If it helps you may want to also want to tell this to a trusted Christian friend or a Priest in Confession.
Quotes from ‘Advices & Queries’ are copyright © The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, 1995, 1997 and 2008
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prayers from ‘Prayers for Hard Times’ are copyright © Becca Anderson 2017
These Reflections, ‘Answering God’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged