The last three months of my blogging life have turned out to be an exploration of different facets of abundance. In November, I explored it from the individual perspective and concluded that a person’s ability to experience abundance doesn’t seem to have much to do with how much money or “stuff” we have at our disposal. In December, I looked at whether our communities of faith support us in feeling abundantly taken care of by God and encourage us to share of this abundance with others beyond our faith community. This month, I’m drawn to looking at whether our beliefs and religious culture contribute to a sense of abundance and joy in life or whether they promote a feeling of scarcity and worry. My own experience is that my particular brand of liberal theology – Quakerism – seems to foster heaviness and a sense of hopelessness about the ills of the world.
What’s the point of considering what emotional state our faith leads us to, the gentle reader may wonder. As a Quaker, don’t you believe that faith arises out of each individual’s encounter with God? It’s not as if a person can just decide to change their faith, is it? Growth and development in faith would arise from an inward experience of God that was different from past experiences, would it not? And that would be up to God, not up the individual, yes?
Yes and no. What I have learned about discernment is to expect that if I am on the right path, on God’s path for me, I will experience the “fruits of the spirit” – a sense of peace and “rightness” at a deeper level than personal emotions of joy, anger, or sadness. If I feel heavy, worried, and that nothing I do can make a difference in the world, it makes me think I may inadvertently have wandered off God’s path.
So when my crucifixion vision (see 1/10/08 blog entry) led me to feel burdened and heavy at a deeper level, and then later to feel drawn toward the joy and hope of evangelical Quakers or a homeless woman (whose experience I wrote about on 1.8.08), I had to conclude that there was something about my past experiences that was, if not wrong, then incomplete. So I asked God if there was something more God wanted to show me, something that was missing or incomplete in my experience. I asked God that I would experience abundance, and only 4 days passed before God answered my prayer and gave me experience of abundance (see 12/11/07 entry), which only went away with the gluttony of Christmas (note to self: I need to do more discernment with my husband and children on how we do Christmas)!
I do think that we can participate in bringing about a change even in an experientially-based faith – if we genuinely desire God to reveal more of the Truth. My presumption is that it isn’t God’s doing if my faith has taken a depressive and hopeless turn. Instead, I probably got “ahead of my Guide” and at some point started listening more to myself than to God. I am sure God is pleased when I remember that I am a follower of Jesus, and that a follower’s place is behind the Guide. When I follow, the Guide will show me the fullness of Life.
God, is there something new you would like to show me?