At NEYM sessions I had a lunchtime discussion with one of the members of my support committee about my spiritual condition and the growing edge of my ministry. As I was answering one of his questions, the phrase that came to me was, “Your rest stop is over.” The phrase comes from taking long-distance bus trips, something that is much less common now than it was in the late 60's and early 70's when I first began traveling on my own about the country. The Greyhound bus line owned the Post House restaurant chain and used these restaurants for rest stops for it's long distance bus routes. The bus would pull into the parking lot and the driver would say that there would be a half-hour rest stop. At the end of that time, there would be an announcement made over the PA system in the restaurant in the form, “All passengers on the bus bound for Washington DC, please return to your bus, your rest stop is over.”
For the past year I have been in a place of rest and fallowness. I have not been led to much public ministry and I have written very little for this blog. I have had some false starts where I thought that new life was emerging and I was ready to resume my writing and other forms of ministry. These turned out to be premature. Now it appears that my rest stop is over and that it is time to get back on the bus, resume my writing and to be open to what new opportunities may arise for me.
This summer, in the time leading up to sessions, I read Deitrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. I found this to be very helpful to me personally. As I was reading it, it struck me that this was perhaps as good a description of the spiritual approach of Early Friends as I have encountered in readable, contemporary English. The book, of course, is not about Early Friends at all. It is about how we are called to be faithful and
obedient to the voice of Christ every day, in everything that we do. It is about turning from a life dominated by the Old Man to a life where we are reborn in the image of Christ. The similarity comes from a common focus on faithfulness and obedience in our actions, even if this obedience comes at great cost. This sense of being recalled to greater faithfulness was, I think, the final step that brought me out of fallowness into new growth.
Finally, I would like to expand a little more on the image of the Kingdom of God. Like all good spiritual symbols, it has levels of meaning that can take a long time to unwrap. I have been turning the idea over since a commenter on my last post said “Won't ever consider 'walking into the promised land', without everybody else.” There are levels on which this statement is true, but it is not the aspect of the Kingdom that I was thinking of in these last two posts. The aspect of the Kingdom of God that I am exploring might be rendered, the community of those who have made God the center of their life. This presupposes, not just the existence of God, but of having found God in some degree. It requires knowing the voice of the Shepherd and following it and no other. It implies embarking on a process of removing from our lives everything that we would put in the place of God. We do not have to wait for anyone else to do that. In fact to do so puts that other person (or all of humanity) ahead of God. Doing this is hard work. There is interior work to find and then work to heal the broken places in us that keep us from placing God first. There is outward work to make our lives conform to what we are being called to be. There is a constant interplay between the two. Prayer leads to action. We are also changed by our actions. Little acts of faithfulness can sometimes illuminate our inner state more than long hours of prayer. Little acts of faithfulness prepare us for larger acts later. We are all called to this journey. No one can make this journey for us but at the same time, it is not a journey we can make alone. We need our friends, we need our communities and we need God. I hope that some of you may join me on this journey.
Blessings to all,