Tag Archives: listening

Blind Faith

At a book-signing, a woman asks me how far from Canada I was raised.

“One lake away,” I respond in an amused tone. Then, I add, “You are not the first person to ask that question.”

Spirituality

Her inquiry reminds me about how far from “home” I have come and sometimes still feel. Yet, every relocation my family and I have made has seemed to be a carefully fulfilled and dovetailed adventure, based upon a combination of thoughtful research and the lovingly patient guidance which the hand of Grace is able to provide.

The furthest afield I have ever moved with my family is when we relocated to a mountain town in the American Southwest. And, this is how that particular story unfolds.

One September day, four months prior to our departure from our home region in the upper Midwest, while riding my bicycle across town, I cruise to a hard stop at a red light. Planting my feet firmly on the ground astraddle my snow-friendly, fat-tired bike, an overwhelming sense of you-do-not-belong-here comes over me.

In response to this sensation, I think, “Where do I belong, if not here?”

Sitting with this question over the next few days, I begin a flurry of research at the local library into other municipalities which I and my family might call home. Where do I and we belong? I consider the list of things we need in a new, home city: employment, good schools and affordable housing amid clean air, water and soil. In my heart, I consider that I would like to try living somewhere below the fortieth parallel, much further south than we have ever lived before. Yet, I feel no clear leadings to take up residence in the Southeast nor do I feel a pull to move due south.

In terms of my research, everything points to the possibility of moving to the American Southwest. This is a region of the country with which I am almost completely unfamiliar and, as “a child of the forest” the notion of barren deserts or scrubby, rocky landscapes at a high degree of altitude give me pause. Nonetheless, in faith, I persist in my efforts to downsize our household’s inventory, as I narrow the field of municipal candidates for relocation.

Finally, having selected a new city to call “home” and with a little more than a month to go before our scheduled departure, we make arrangements with a  cross-country mover. We have no address, no relatives and no friends to meet us on the other end—just a very strong sense that this move will take us where we need to be.

Then, one day, while I am sorting through the few remaining items to be packed in the vehicle along with us, I choke. I choke on the entire idea of guidance, intuitive nudges, Quaker leadings and blind faith. Looking for some form of concrete affirmation outside of myself for the leap we are about to take, I try something for the first (and only) time, which a former Christian roommate used in her daily faith practice: I decide to engage in sortes Biblicae.

Scrambling to find a copy of our Bible to put my Spirit at ease, I paw through the stacks of books which have been set aside to travel with us.  After some searching, I pull the book out from under several others. Then, placing the Bible on a freshly cleared window ledge facing the north side of our apartment, the lake, the arboretum and my own local “forest” sanctuary, I close my eyes and open it, being careful not to injure its delicate pages. With a solid sense of resolve, I plant my extended index finger firmly on one of the two open pages. Picking up the book, while being mindful that I do not shift my finger in a way that would cause me to lose the marked passage, I open my eyes and draw the book closer to me.

Clearly marked by my extended index finger, one line from a verse in Isaiah (40:9) stands out, “…Get thee up into the high mountain….” All tension and doubt melt away. My Spirit grows calm with the affirmation that we are on the right track.

Readings

Sacred scripture—no matter the tradition—usually counsels its readers to become more self-aware, generous and respectful toward humanity by means of teaching some form of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Yet, the cultural and historical details of certain scriptural narratives often feature nuances which lead to a great deal of discomfort and/or interpretive hurdles in terms of deriving a “modern” lesson for current application.

Spirituality

The other day, the story of Hagar came up in a reading from Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament in The Bible. Hagar is one of Sarah’s handmaids, an Egyptian slave-girl.  At Sarah’s suggestion, Hagar is used by Abraham to produce a male heir (this is prior to Sarah’s own unexpectedly late conception and birthing of her only son, Isaac).

For most modern audiences, there are aspects of this story which are highly problematic, especially in cultures where respect for an individual’s life, sense of personal choice and the sanctity of one’s volition with regard to the body are given priority. Still, in rereading the excerpt, what strikes me the most is that Hagar’s relationship with God is equal to that of Abraham’s and Sarah’s.

God does not forsake Hagar eventhough her worth and life, in the society of that time, are of little to no consequence or value. She and her body may be a means to Sarah’s and Abraham’s end, yet her relationship with God is equal–in terms of protection and guidance.

God listens to Hagar. God talks to Hagar. God reveals to Hagar her unique place in the grand plan. And, ultimately, Grace places an umbrella of protection over Hagar and her son, Ishmael, after they are cast out into the desert.

What I have learned is this: Even as the sands of a social circumstance may become like quicksand and threaten to swallow a person up, Grace is the one surety, toward which we may turn and upon which we may rely.

So, remember to get quiet, open your heart and listen, because cultivating a connection with the Light provides protection and support.