Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I'm feeling led to share my story somewhere on this site, but not sure where or how. But rather than do that here I would like to hear from others what they see as the essential difference it makes in our lives to follow the Light of CHRIST versus the Light. Having passed through a phase of my life as a liberal Quaker where I was told the Light is something all humans have and it is not necessarily connected to the historical Jesus I can begin by saying that when I was listening to the Light, I really didn't know what or who I was listening for! What does a Light sound like, anyway, aside from possibly your own conscience, and the nudging of a Presence that leads you to do good in the world? The Bible seemed completely unimportant and mystifying, unless I could somehow use the stories as sources of allegories about various aspects of human life, but it was up to my imagination to see how they could apply to me.
Then fast forward to many years later when God hits me over the head with Jesus, with Christ, with a personal presence that makes me tremble and gasp for breath at times! No more vague Light, but the holy name of Jesus, the sweetest name in the world! I was totally taken by surprise as I had never figured out the connection between Jesus and me, really. But there was no mistaking the message for me now, as every time I put on my new head covering the words "Merciful Jesus" unmistakably would come into my head! What! What does that have to do with a head covering?! Anyway, the game was up and I was shaken to the roots. It was as if God took me by the throat and shook me and turned me every which way but loose (sounds a bit violent for a Quaker, eh?).
The next few weeks were a rollercoaster of ecstatic highs and the depths of despair. I had no idea that the birth of the Light of Christ could be so much work and so painful. I thought it would lead to joy, and instead it is work, and pain, and agony, and ecstasy all mixed together, with God overseeing this new birth.What has helped me to get through it all has been to read the journals of the old Quakers and see over and over again their lives follow very closely what I have gone through.And above all the words "No Cross, No Crown" keep resonating in my head. This is what it is all about.
So, to answer my own question, I don't see the Cross in the Light. I don't see the pain and suffering and personal sacrifice that is involved in this sanctification process that I am going through in the Light. Maybe others will correct me here, but for me I could not get to the Life, to the Peace of God, without the cleansing fires that I have been going through, and only the Light of Christ requires that kind of sacrifice. I am dying and being resurrected for Christ, not for a nameless Light. And yes it matters terribly I think! Nothing matters more in the world than Jesus. To quote Mother Teresa "All for Jesus, all for Jesus".
Would love to hear from other Friends on this topic.
I appreciate Alice's contribution, and also every contributor's experience of "the Christ within", or The Light, or The Seed. There are so manyways of experiencing the Divine - some have the experience of a loving person, Jesus, talking to them; others have an emotional break-through, a conversion; for some such as myself the experience of the Divine (God) is the noticing of all the constructive, living, loving actions in the world, and (from the Bible) the loving, living actions of Jesus 2000 years ago. The spirit that spoke in the Bible is living and continuing and speaks to us and through us today. I have never had a "conversion" experience or a strike of lightening to suddenly change my spirit. Instead I have plodded along in daily life, but increasingly notice the loving, constructive helpful acts which occur, which follow the example of Jesus. There is something that impels helpfulness even in animals as in people: A mother cat returned to rescue her kittens from a fire, five times, even though she herself suffered burns, until she rescued all her kittens. (the cat was given treatment and healed - by a caring person.) People jump into the water to rescue the drowning. People risk their lives to pull a wounded man out of a line of fire. There is a spirit which is the same spirit that inspired Jesus, which if we pay attention to it, will help us to lead better lives. We experience this spirit differently - some with deep and valuable emotion, others with quiet meditation and thoughtfulness, but no matter how we esperience it, we need to listen to it and if possible act according to the spirit's direction. Jesus set us an example, and he can still teach us, himself, directly.
In Friendship, Maida
I find this extremely interesting, and I wish to share about some of my spiritual transformations. I come from a background that was fairly anti-christian. Both of my parents had negative experiences with Christianity, and as I became an adult, I became an ardent atheist. But there's nothing like having a few amazing spiritual experiences to challenge one's faith in atheism. For a while I studied a spiritual path call the Pathwork, which first introduced me to a very different conception of Jesus than the one proposed by a fundamentalist approach. About 4 years ago, I was bored one night, and while looking at random things on the internet, came across the wikipedia article on Quakerism, and was readily convinced. But there was still a struggle about Jesus, a reservation about Him. About a year and a half ago, I started to have a strong urge to learn about Jesus, and to really discover what I REALLY feel and think about him. Then last summer, during a worship sharing at yearly meeting, I was expressing this leading, and how I appreciated that Quakerism allows me the space to go through this process with total honesty. The spirit was indeed very strong. Once I finished speaking, the woman who was sitting next to me (who I'm pretty sure isn't christian) was looking at me in a strange way, and then said that while it was probably just the sunlight shining at an angle through the trees, she could have sworn she saw a hand on my shoulder. (My reply was that I thought it was The Light). I was ecstatic for days. So I know that I have been approaching this experience you speak of. Yet there is a strong spiritual block at the moment, and I know there is something substantial that must change before this process can continue. Friend, I thank thee for sharing your story, it has been very valuable for me to read it.
Barbara Smith said:
Alice - I just wanted to thank you, belatedly, for your post here. What you said about attending another church in addition to Friends struck a note with me and settled the turmoil I have been having about a fellowship we have been involved in for 17 years. I was in agonies about the group, the pull away to more connection with Quakers, the pull to a closer fellowship with Christ. All this was paining me and every Sunday God listened as I agonized about it all! There did not seem to be a clear path at all! Then your words and example opened up the way for me and I saw that following Jesus is the Way, whether at Meeting or church or wherever! It's about Him, not about Me! So things are now falling into place for me and Peace followed right behind.
Bill, your urging to fellowship with other Christians, not just Friends, spoke to me the same way. Thank you for that reminder. We may not all worship the same way, or have the same theology, but God is more interested in our hearts than our theology anyway!
Thank you Friends. You have been an essential help to me.
Enjoy the Spring!!!!
What a wonderful story, Barb. Mine is not as exciting as yours. I struggled a bit when I first came to Quakers last year as I couldn't quite understand what the 'light' was in the context of my already formed Christian faith. Don't know why I missed it for a while, but I suddenly realised that the light is the Spirit of Christ. I understand that others may not see it that way, but for me it was like a piece of a jigsaw just slipping into place.
Like you, I have been touched by Catholic mystical writing as well. There are many rich sources to explore.