Over at The Good Raised Up, Liz Opp wrote about her yearly meeting and noted this:
"One Friend commented with some disgust that he had once seen a sign at a Liberal Friends' event saying, "You can believe whatever you want." The Friend went on to testify that being a Quaker isn't about believing what you want. It's about living your life by following the leadings of the Spirit. "
As a seeker this interests me for a couple of reasons.
One reason is that I'm trying to live my life by following the light within, or the leading of the spirit or whatever you prefer to call that source of undeniable instruction.
I am certainly not the first to ever notice that this light does not always instruct me to do what I would personally prefer to do. Often quite the opposite. I attribute this to the Inner Guide being a whole lot smarter than me.
The other reason is that to me following the light and "believing whatever you want" are NOT mutually exclusive.
Following your inner leading seems to me a solid thing...you hear and you heed.
What you "believe" is just a story you tell yourself.
An example of this is me, Plain Dress, and the rest of the world.
The light/leading part of this is that in 2007 I began to feel strongly led to change my way of dressing, my way of presenting myself to the world, my way of purchasing clothing, and so on. All of this is a simple matter of hearing and heeding.
The belief part of this is very much up to interpretation.
I can believe G-d has called me to Plain Dress.
I can believe I am called to Plain Dress as witness of Christian Modesty.
I can believe I am called to Plain Dress as a testimony against the idiocy of the fashion industry.
I can believe I am called to Plain Dress as an example of greater justice in a world of underpaid sweatshop workers.
I can believe I thought up dressing plain all on my own as an excuse to make a bunch of new dresses.
Basically, I can believe whatever I want.
Other people can believe about me whatever they want.
Beliefs, however compelling they may be, can't be proved or disproved.
A great strength of Quakerdom is the realization that there is that of God in everyone, even in people who are quite different in one way or another.
A weakness it is easy to slide into is interpreting this as "I can see that of God in people based on how much they agree with me and see things just the way I see them".
God seems somehow to have created billions and billions of people, each with a separate set of life experiences, each with an individual point of view.
This makes it unlikely that anyone on the planet will see anything exactly the way I see it.
But that's ok, I'm not the boss of the world. They can believe what they want.
Of course, you don't have to believe that.