Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Day of Visitation

I have been fascinated with the doctrine of the Day of Visitation from when I first encountered it in Barclay. I do not know if this idea is unique to Quakerism but I have not encountered it anywhere. I like the way that it neatly deals with a number of issues. The basic idea of the Day of Visitation is that there is a period of time in everyone's life when they are open to hearing the voice of the Divine and acting on it. If they are attentive and obedient to this Divine Seed, it will grow and flourish in them and they will be led into a greater and stronger faith. If they ignore it, if they push it down and trample on the seed, eventually it will stop growing. At some point, if the the Light is continually ignored or rebelled against, it will stop working within a person and they will have lost all possibility of recovering it again.

What I like about this idea is that it makes it our responsibility how we respond to the promptings of God in our lives. It shows God's respect for our free will in the way we respond. It also means that our response has real consequences and at some point we are stuck with the consequences. If we are sufficiently reprobate, we eventually will loose the ability to return to God. Barclay says:
Whence, to men in this condition may be fitly applied those scriptures which are abused to prove that God incites men necessarily to sin: this is notably expressed by the apostle (Rom. 1, from v.17 to the end), but especially v. 28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”
If nothing else, this shows that the abuse of Romans 1 is not a new phenomenon.

Barclay will argue in the 9th proposition that is is possible to become so established in ones faith that it impossible to fall away completely. We do not know how this day of visitation will last for ourselves or for others. Barclay gives the example of the thief on the cross whose day of visitation clearly lasted up until the last moments of his life. Since we do not know how long we have, it is a motivation to turn to God while there is still time. “Call now, operators standing by.”

7 Comments:

Blogger Elizabeth Bathurst said...

Will,

I am especially fond of the idea that what we are called to do is simply allow the Seed to grow within us. We cannot force it, we cannot choose our day of visitation. We must respond, but we cannot initiate. Our attentiveness takes effort, but the source of the change within us is the Divine. It's what I was getting at, albeit in a less intellectual fashion in my last post:
http://quakingharlot.blogspot.com/2007/09/isaiah-again.html

With Love,
"Elizabeth Bathurst"

September 26, 2007 12:56 PM  
Blogger RichardM said...

The Day of visitiation idea is indeed a striking one. When it comes to theology Quaker tradition has always been to test it not against some presumed correct reading of the Bible but rather to test it against our experience. So it's fair to test the Day of Visitation idea against our experience. How well does it fit the facts?

My answer is that it fits the facts pretty loosely. We know by personal experience (at least some of us know this) that God speaks directly to us and we are told to do specific things. That is to say obedience is required. To obey is a humbling experience. It shifts a person out of their competetive "I'm smarter/stronger than you are" mode. It somehow makes us painfully aware of our limitations and lack of power. But then when we obey we become better and it becomes a little easier to listen and obey the next time and the next time. To put it in more modern terms, a positive feedback loop is created.

Not obeying happens too. The action asked of us may require just a little more humilty than we care to have. We don't want to serve our rather nasty and ungrateful fellow humans because they don't seem to appreciate it, etc. etc. So we refuse and then it becomes a little harder to hear the next call and a little harder to obey it when we hear it. A negative feedback loop is created.

So there is a kernal of truth in the Day of Visitation idea that we have this limited window of opportunity that will not stay open forever, that by saying "no" to God we can grow more distant from God. But is anyone, Barclay included, really in a position to say that the window of opportunity really closes forever? I don't see how anyone's experience could prove that.

September 27, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Will T said...

Elizabeth,
Thank you. Actually, we have two responsibilities. One is to respond to the promptings of God, the other is to learn to tell the difference between the the promptings of God and all of our other promptings. Neither are easy.

Richard,
Barclay actually says that for some people, the window of opportunity does stay open for their entire life, and he gives as an example the thief who was crucified with Jesus who obtained salvation as he was dying. But there are also people who I have seen who seem to consistently choose to self over God. These people may be able to change but it doesn't seem to be very likely. There are also people I know of only through history or reading the newspapers who seem to be downright evil. But we can't know about any one else's day of visitation. We do not know what God has planned and we can never underestimate God's redeeming love and power. It is not our job to judge anyone. It is our job to listen to the voice that is talking to us.

Will

September 27, 2007 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

I imagine the first Friends concluded that the day of visitation doesn't last forever, on the basis of their experience interacting with their enemies. Surely they observed some people — Puritan divines, secular judges, and other prominent opponents, as well as ordinary neighbors — who listened to their message and to the voice in their own hearts for a while, and seemed to be somewhat "reached", but who then turned away, turned hostile, and eventually became unreachable. It would have been very logical to conclude that for such people there had been a day of visitation, but it had ended.

I've experienced similar things myself, and because I have, I'm inclined to agree with the first Friends that a person's day of visitation can be limited.

September 29, 2007 8:34 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I have had the personal experience of a leading being given to me, of resisting and refusing it, "oh no, God, not me, I can't..." and then later having it shown to me that my leading had been withdrawn and obstacles placed to prevent me from following it.

Last Sunday, a thought came to me about this post, and I thought of the Day of Visitation being a little like the window of opportunity to get clothes out of the dryer and hang them up before the wrinkles set.

October 02, 2007 3:37 PM  
Blogger Bill Samuel said...

I don't think the idea is unique to Quakers, but I haven't seen it expressed quite the same way elsewhere.

I'm also thinking of the corporate impact of this. Where in a "faith community" so many have persisted in trampling the seed, and the trampling is encouraged in the community, what does it do to the community? What does it do to those who are open to the seed growing within them, and come into such a community?

It seems to me that I have seen people who yearn for the growth of the seed, and have nurtured it in important ways, having this compromised by remaining in such a community. Perhaps there are some with a call to witness in such a community, but I became loath to encourage Friends to remain.

I have often puzzled at the scripture, "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord." (2 Corinthians 6:17) It would not be consistent with the rest of the New Testament to view that as believers staying separate from unbelievers in general, but these thoughts that have come to me on reading this blog entry do shed light on it for me.

[In case folks are wondering, yes I am thinking in terms of liberal Friends meetings, which is where most of my experience is.]

October 04, 2007 8:04 PM  
Blogger Paul L said...

I once sang this Hank Williams song as an illustration of the how the Day of Visitation works. Imagine it being sung by God to someone who didn't respond when he visited:

1. Well you're just in time to be too late,
I tried to but I couldn't wait,
And now I've got another date,
So I won't be home no more.

You're just in time to miss the boat,
So don't take off your hat and coat,
Be on your way that's all she wrote,
'Cause I won't be home no more.

I stood around a month or two and waited for your call,
Now I'm too busy pitchin' woo so come around next fall.

I scratched your name right off my slate,
And hung a sign on my front gate,
You're just in time to be too late,
And I won't be home no more.

2. Well you're just in time to turn around,
And drive your buggy back to town,
You looked me up, I'm a turnin' you down,
And I won't be home no more.

You're just in time to change your tune,
Go tell your troubles to the moon,
And come around next May or June,
'Cause I won't be home no more.

I used to be a patient kind, believed each alibi,
But that's all right, I've changed my mind,
I've got new fish to fry.

Well you're just in time to celebrate,
The thing you didn't calculate,
You're just in time to be too late,
And I won't be home no more.

December 19, 2007 12:29 PM  

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