Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
A friend recently commented that being a Quaker is "hard. Really, really hard." Immediately the old Catholic guilt started flowing, and I asked myself whether I was working hard enough.
The past few months have been joyful. I've been happier than I've been in a long time. After many difficulties in my life, things are finally starting to come together, and I'm waking up happy to see the sun and start a new day. I credit some of that joy to the spiritual nourishment I receive from my meeting. Most of it I credit to the whims of the universe. Some times are better than others, and this is one of the better times.
"Hard" was life before I learned about Quakerism. "Hard" was wondering how to handle a violent situation in a compassionate manner and thinking I was the only person in the world who had grappled with such an issue. "Hard" was feeling completely alone amongst friends, unable to shake the conviction that something was wrong with spending hundreds of dollars on entertainment and thinking I was doomed to be a social outcast forever because I felt that way. "Hard" was taking every word that came out of my mouth seriously, really thinking about speaking the truth and speaking kindness, and believing that I was peculiar and alone for being so serious about everything.
"Hard" was trying to live up to the light in me without even knowing that the light was there. Without knowing that others were on the same path as me, that there was a meeting of people who sought the same things I sought, who could comfort and support me in my time of need. Without knowing there was a long, rich tradition of writing about the very questions I had. Without a weekly meeting to be enveloped and nourished in corporate worship. Those days were very hard indeed, and I don't want to go back to them.
My experience in Quakerism has been sheer joy. I have found company on the journey, and it is a blessing.
Walking the path alone was hard. Walking the path in the company of Friends, illuminated by the Light -- it's still a hard path, but one I now cross with a smile on my face. I feel joy, and release, and camraderie, and above all else, a deep love of life and all of creation. I cannot join my friend in feeling that Quakerism is "hard," at least not right now.
I am open to the possibility that, as I learn more and my practice deepens, I will understand what she meant. I may be expressing a superficial understanding of the Spirit by admitting that I found life before convincement much harder that life after convincement. For now, however, I am grateful every day. I am no longer alone in the dark. I never was -- that' s the beauty of the Light, it was there even when I was blind to it -- but I felt that I was, and I now feel deeply loved, and accepting that love is no burden at all.
My query: would you characterize your faith practice as "hard?" When have things been hardest for you?