In our time of introductions and afterthoughts following meeting for worship yesterday, several people spoke their concerns about the ban on immigration. I didn’t speak, but later a Friend came up and said, “You seem to be in pain.” I guess my face showed what I was feeling. He offered the opportunity to express some of that feeling in words. This is an example of what several seasoned Friends have offered me over the years: the opening to go to a deeper level, to voice what is stirring in my heart.
This morning I am musing about the gift of inviting others to share more deeply, whether in clearness committees or ordinary conversation. In a meeting yesterday a Friend told of an experience in a clearness committee where he felt the rising of a difficult question but was hesitant to ask it. After several minutes of suppressing it, he finally could stand it no longer and put the question into words. It turned out to be a pivotal moment for all, allowing the focus person especially to look at an aspect of the situation that had not been acknowledged.
The movement of the Spirit in this way is not surprising in a setting where three or four are gathered to listen deeply. How about in everyday conversations with people? In the past few weeks there have been many opportunities with friends and even strangers to share our feelings of dismay, fear and outrage. I have tried to maintain a hopeful stance, taking the cue from President Obama in his farewell speech. “We the people” is not an abstraction. The need for collective action is bringing all sorts of people together to march, to contact their legislators, to pray.
But can we go deeper? How can I help to create spaces for people to search their own hearts and find the source of strength that will sustain them? Asking the right questions rooted in compassion and love is a gift. We don’t do it on our own. It is at the heart of being a spiritual nurturer, an elder, a Friend. Our world needs us to be there holding the spaces, inviting people to go beyond the anger and fear and into action guided by love.