“Waking up is a significant moment for getting in touch with what we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, and how we’re doing. It’s a significant moment in which to check in. But often we don’t. The alarm goes off, we’ve got to get up, and we’ve got all these things to do. But waking up is a significant moment where it can really benefit us to take a few minutes to just to check in and gauge how we are feeling and thinking.”
Over the course of the past day, I’ve received several messages from friends regarding my last blog entry. Each message is a small note of accountability, drawing me away from illusion and survival mechanisms, towards a sense of self that is both individual and communal. It is this wide network of friends and family that encourages me to keep asking the hard questions, to keep seeking faithfulness and righteousness, to keep searching for and being fully who I am.
So I continue to explore the idea of waking up, awakening, awareness- what does this have to teach me? How can I live fully and faithfully into this “significant moment” of getting in touch with what I am feeling, what I am thinking and how I am doing?
While the my experience of awakening encompasses this moment and other transitional times in my life, the process of awakening also occurs in Meeting for Worship. I love the quote above by Valerie Mason-John, the author of Detox Your Heart, because it also reminds me that at the pivotal moment of checking-in, reaching discernment, speaking or not speaking in worship- I’m not always right! When I am faithful, I live into that moment; when I am not, I don’t speak what has filled up my vessel and I walk out of meeting, pushing the experience behind me- forgetting.
Many friends of mine have found themselves in relationships that seem to drag on and on. I been in these kinds of relationships too. What should be red flags that demand change, are consciously (and sometimes unconsciously) ignored; forgotten in order to preserve the illusion of comfort, stability, and dreams. I often ignore red flags that illuminate how I am not living faithfully- how I let the allure of society draw me away from what is right.
In Islam, consciously forgetting is closely related to the Christian concept of sin. When that alarm goes off in my life, do I hit the snooze alarm? When God calls me into ministry, vocal or otherwise, do I say ‘please God, not now, I’m tired.”? What does it mean to reject a call? Does God forgive us when we turn back and listen once more?
Moses put up quite the argument to God, when commanded to speak in front of Pharaoh. “No God I couldn’t possibly do that; No God, they won’t believe me; No God I can’t speak well; No God I stutter” But at the moment of awakening, Moses didn’t say to himself “I’m imagining things, let me go back to my sheep; let me go back to sleep and ignore this ever happened.” Moses said “Here I am!” Sure he grew afraid and tried to hide his face, but he still responded!
Being awake is a daily choice with daily choices. Can my confession of blindness be a call into the action of awakening? And like Moses, God gives us friends, family and community to help us stay accountable to the choice of being awake; the choice of being faithful and living faithfully. One of those friends is my dear friend Noah who wrote the following poem in reflection of the 6th World Conference of Friends. The poem appeared in the lastest issue of Seeds, the publication of Good News Associates. I love how he depicts the blindness and awakening as part of the process of turning close to God and even in fear and in exhaustion, saying Yes!
Write the vision;
Make it plain upon tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
for there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it hastens to the end, and does not lie.
if it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
- Habakkuk 2:2-3, NRSV
I hear flamingos come by their millions at night
to where we stood at noontime
sweating at the sun-soaked hot springs
thirsting for living water
When the Quakers got together
I didn’t see flamingos
or lions, or baboons
Well, not many, anyway.
But I saw the miracle.
Not in praying or in dancing
not in preaching, singing, silence
But in the place in all our journeys
where the Resurrection
meets the Damascus Road
Where we are for just a moment blinded
and then made whole
For just a moment
because that’s how the healing happens
the work is always ours
but we’re given just these moments’ winged grace
to help us live our way back whole again
At such a time I heard the hunger unspoken
to know what we’ve been missing
Blessed are those who know their need
for theirs is the grace of heaven
It’s easy to dismiss the miracle
when to name it would mean change
Since it comes on wings at night
wrong time, color, language, shape
scattered feathers in the morning are easily swept away
But at the edges of our vision
I saw the tidal change
where fear gives way to wonder
where exhaustion finds surrender
where laboring becomes loving
and strife encounters faith
In the eyes of a generation rising
I saw the grief of Not Yet Possible
and deeper down inside
as yesterday’s Why
awakens tomorrow’s How.
God’s questions burn like candles, where answers never could.
So keep awake. Watch and pray.
When those long-legged birds
unfurl their wings
and the stars begin to sing
in those first skies humans saw
sing with us
In the shelter of Your wings, we will take refuge
In the shadow of Your wings, we sing for joy
If two costumed angels came
to announce the miracle I saw
If Love’s messengers arrived on a mission from God
in the shape of old-time Quaker ministers
If the Rift Valley of Kenya
were the City of Chicago
and this was a classic film
Francis Howgill and Edward Burrough
would roll up in an old police car
suits, hats, and sunglasses
and proclaim it:
“We’re puttin’ the band back together.”
— Noah Baker Merrill, June 2012