David Johnson. Queensland Regional Meeting.
The voice of the universal wisdom, the eternal, anointing, Divine Presence, the perfection of Truth, the ultimate, inexhaustible and unconditional source of all Love, the supernatural revealing, reproving, guiding and healing Light, the mysterious presence unknowable, unfathomable yet truly the only reality, unchangeable and ever reliable, the initiator of all that has been, is and ever will be, the ever-present, the source of all creative life and power, independent of gender yet also Mother, Father and Abba, for me in a word God, calls us into two main places.
The first is aloneness, in places of solitude, perhaps wandering in the natural world; or in solitary prayer during the night hours. At times this is a barren wilderness, at times a humble searching, at others a rich pasture with refreshing waters. The message may be either for our own spiritual journey, perhaps only an intimation of change, or a direct instruction for work to be undertaken.
The second is in practical and spiritual community where the voice of the Spirit comes through the words of those around us, in the work we do with them, and during the experience of shared worship. The gift of another’s words or actions, the clarity of sudden understandings, the arising of compassion, or the inward encouragement to continue working for reconciliation can be fruits of the Spirit’s voice in community.
The oscillation between solitude and community happens on a daily or a periodic basis, and if I am responsive to the inward urgings of the Spirit I can move freely between these two places. For the Spirit will call me aside in prayer for instruction or replenishment, and then send me forth with work to do. The alternation, as others have said, is between the desert and the marketplace. The Grace given is preparation for the work allotted. Not uncommonly such work is enabled by giving each of us a new voice, whether as ministry in worship, as a witness against injustice, as the counsel of an elder, or as a friend in community.
Yet there is a second voice within us – the voice of the Self that strives to counteract the divine voice. I recognise the voice of self-centredness and self-interest in myself. This voice can also be very subtle and appealing to our ‘better’ nature. Which do we choose?
Holy obedience is asked of us. Early Quakers knew full well the sense of being subject to the “cross”. We cannot expect that God will always ask for things that happen to suit our own comfort and desires. Our task is to not only hear the divine voice but also to do what is asked of us. Moses laid this out after wandering with the Hebrews in the wilderness. Though the Ten Commandments had been handed down for daily and judicial guidance, Moses described the real guide (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) in words that bespeak a future Quaker spirituality:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Margeret Fell understood immediately George Fox’s words at Ulverstone in 1652:
“…but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light, and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?”
I cannot promise as Co-Director at Silver Wattle to perfectly hear every voice that is present. I do hope our work will enable Silver Wattle to continue to develop as a place where each person who comes can hear the inward voice more clearly, and be given the strength and voice to act upon it.
David Johnson and his wife Trish, will be Co-Directors at Silver Wattle Quaker Centre from 1/1/2013.