Transforming Power

A word that continues to challenge me this morning is “transformation.” My grandsons, no doubt, would think of Transformers—the alien robots who can disguise themselves as various kinds of machines. I don’t think that’s what I mean. As a child, I memorized the Bible verse, “Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. “[1] I don’t think I knew what that meant.

Quakers speak of transformation in terms of “living a life rooted in the transforming experience of the Divine.” I can relate to that. Ben Pink Dandelion, in his book, Open for Transformation: the 2014 Swarthmore Lecture, says, “We are challenged to consider how we retain an authentic encounter with the Divine, how we become a transformed and transforming community.”[2] Ah, yes, now we’re on to something.

Yesterday in our Quaker Meeting Bible study we explored the story of Elijah’s encounter with Yahweh on Mount Horeb.[3] Elijah, fleeing for his life, heads to the wilderness where, depressed and exhausted, he falls asleep. He is awakened by an angel, who offers him bread and water to sustain him on his journey. After 40 days and 40 nights he reaches a cave on Mount Horeb. He hears a voice asking, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answers, “I have been very zealous for the Lord.” The Israelites, once again, have forsaken the covenant with God and have killed the prophets. Elijah feels that he is the only one left and now he is afraid for his life. As he stands in the cave, there is a great wind, but God was not in the wind. There is an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake, and a fire, but God was not in the fire. After the fire there is a “still, small voice” asking him the same question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” After he gives the same answer, God tells him to return to his community. It is clear that he is not alone and that he still has work to do.

I’ve always heard this story as a cautionary tale to help us listen through the noise and drama of wind, earthquakes, and fire, to hear the still, small voice of the Divine. But what happens to Elijah when he does listen? How is he changed?

In a powerful message to the World Conference of Friends in Kenya, Noah Baker Merrill told this story of Elijah and then asked, “Friends, what does it take in our lives, when we’re running fast toward what seems like so much good work, for us to remember to stop and wait, to stay deeply connected to our Guide? Where have we gone beyond what God asks of us, and continued in our own striving and pride?”

So transformation is not something we DO, either to ourselves or to the world. Like Elijah, we may be zealous in working for change, but do we take time to listen for the still, small voice and allow ourselves to be transformed?
[1] Romans 12:2

[2] Published by Britain Yearly Meeting 2014.

[3] 1Kings 19:4-15

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