Where did I last find God?
How easy it would be to begin this reflection by listing the places in which I have not found God recently. Easy, too, would be the list of where I miss going to find God. But the question is where did I last find God?
Unsurprisingly, the Light, when one looks, when one remembers, cannot be escaped. It reflects on every surface, whether it is in how the shadows and light lie between each other in a room; whether it is how the leaves glisten and shimmer in the garden; whether it is in the broad expanse of sky held by wide horizons when one gets out of town.
The Light, God, is in my heart, on my breath. I do often remember, whatever I am doing and especially if something is distressing me, to listen with focus to my breath. To remember how sacred it is, that it carries precious life. My breath brings me into the presence of wholeness, into a space beyond the limitations of my mind and emotions. Breathing in and breathing out, I remember to let go and let God.
For complex reasons, I have been unable to attend Meeting for Worship for a very long time. How deeply I miss it. It is not the same as meditation, neither on my own, nor with another, nor Meeting online. I want “my Meeting”. The place that enriched, that nourished, that spiritually empowered me to find something in myself I didn’t know was there. I ache for that Meeting. But it is gone. It has changed. Not for the worse, but it is so very different and I don’t know my place in it any more.
Being in groups is so hard for me when I don’t have a leadership role. I observe myself feeling around for whether there is any place for me to lead as an elder in my old Meeting, for it is sorely lacking the nourishment an elder brings. Somehow it is not time. Somehow, I suspect, I need to be there in my vulnerability and discomfort first. I need to allow myself to be humble, which is so very hard for me.
What a blessing and privilege it is to work with other elders. Yet, I am aware that as long as I feel alienated from my local Meeting something is holding me back from deepening that work. It is the way of Friends that we seek from our local Meeting the checks and balances needed to ensure our spiritual calling is true. Without that anchor I feel adrift. Surely I am not the first solitary seeker. Quakers over the centuries find themselves isolated periodically. Sometimes by geography, other times by virtue of our faith being one of convincement. Some among us find ourselves at odds with our local Meeting if we feel called to speak out against something that’s happening there which we can’t abide.
I do long for retreat. Retreat is not an easy space for me to occupy, but it is a necessary discomfort for me. Finding the words to articulate what that call is about is hard. A ministry is being called out of me. It is my habit to fight it. It is my habit to strive and argue and apply my egotistical will.
When one practises surrender deeply and frequently enough, there is no question about whether one will align oneself with Divine Will or not. It simply happens. What remains is for us to foster openness and devotion. It has been my lot in life to repeatedly observe that while a contemplative order and rhythm to one’s days creates momentum and facilitates surrender, my temperament does not submit readily to the discipline.
So I am left to reassure myself that this is not a sign of unworthiness or incapacity. I am left to seek out those wispy tendrils of Light, to remind myself often “where did I last find God?”. And go there, and go there again. Think not on whether one goes often enough or close enough. Questions like this simply vex the mind and waste time that could be spent more fruitfully in peace and joy.
 The Australian Friend does not normally publish anonymous contributions, but the committee felt that this obviously honest article could not be published unless we agreed with the writer’s request for anonymity.