Saturday, September 8, 2007

Learning to Serve

My bags are packed (all but my toothbrush and paste) and I'm ready to go. I'm leaving in an hour for the Nashville Friends Meeting "Growing In the Light" Spiritual Formation Group opening retreat.

We're staying at Penuel Ridge, which is a lovely retreat center about 15 miles out of Nashville in the middle of nowhere. It's the same place I have hosted my "Motherhood and Spirituality" retreat days.

Last night, Hammy and I went to Kinko's to make copies of some handouts. I've got the ingredients for the salad I'm making for lunch tomorrow. I've got my brown-bag lunch for today. All the participants have been contacted about everything they need to bring (or leave at home). I was going through my mental checklist yesterday and said to Hammy that either I'm going to get there and find that I've forgotten something really important or this is unfolding without a hitch.

I've never organized a group like this with a retreat before. When Caroline and I first talked about it, we both agreed that we'd like 10-15 folks to participate. Well, we have 14, including ourselves. I'm so happy that this thing I have been called to do is filling a need for others for whom I feel love and esteem. It's a wonderful, dynamic and very supportive group of people; some are newer to Quakerism, some long timers. I know I will be nurtured simply by being with each of them. The part of me that keeps worrying that I'm forgetting something is being gently shushed by the part of me that is reassuring me that "way has opened" as God wants it to be. What a relief! I can let go of my ego and let God lead me. But that means I have to LET GO OF MY EGO. I have always been all puffed up when I've organized things which others have enjoyed. I am doing this as a servant. I don't want thanks or, though I guess it's probably inevitable that folks will thank me, I don't want to get all puffy and blown up by thanks. I want to learn to be humble. I'm using the gifts given me by God to serve God through God's "body".

I've been bumping into a bunch of Dominican nuns around town. I've not seen any one of the regularly enough to recognize them as individuals but whichever ones I see, we always smile and greet one another in some way. Some of them are very young. The oldest is probably no older than 35 or so. I used to be so frustrated and judgmental about a young woman taking vows and basically giving up her life for the Catholic church. Lately, I see it as freeing in many ways. I still don't have much use for the Catholic church with all it's pomp, wealth and hierarchy, but there are some things it offers that we Quakers have to seek out and create on our own.
I have always been such an individualist. I have been about ME. I have been the subject of MY LIFE. ME, ME, ME. God was a nice accessory, filling the spiritual portion of my being. I can see a very strong appeal to giving up all the things that make me feel like the center of the universe so I could learn to be humble, to serve, to make God the subject of my life. My path is to do it a day at a time rather than committing to a life of austerity. That way seems, in many ways, much easier. This path is all learning something one day and forgetting it the next and then relearning it again. I'm on my path but oftentimes I forget that God is my path and my destination, thinking that I'm just walking for the scenery or to get somewhere or for my health.

That's one of the things I want to "work on" (opening myself to God's Light) during the 9 months we are participating in Growing In the Light. I want to learn to let go of myself and open up to God. I want to mean it when I say "not my will but Thine".

This song has been running through my head since reading a post via "Quakerquaker" yesterday:

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
And all it's righteousness
And all these things will be added unto you


Liz Opp said...

This is a good post for me to read at this time. I needed another reminder about being a servant, letting go ego, and keeping low.

Thanks for your continued faithfulness.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Friendly Mama said...

And thank you for your encouragement. It's good to know that we sometimes share the path with like minds and hearts.
Mary Linda

Robin M. said...

I'm another Quaker/mother/blogger. Folks in my quarterly meeting are talking about starting a spiritual formation group too. I look forward to reading more.

Robin Mohr
What Canst Thou Say?

Mark Wutka said...

Hi Mary Linda,
I hope the retreat is going/went well! It feels to me like many Quakers have a resistance to the idea of being servants, but I think that is required for true growth in the Spirit. I think my biggest leaps have been when I decided to let go of something. There are so many of us going through the same struggle of "not my will but Thine".
With love,

Friendly Mama said...

I look forward to seeing you and Ceal Friday and (maybe) getting the chance to talk. Sounds like your weekend will be crazybusy, though!

How old are your children?
I'll be interested to follow your meeting's path about forming a spiritual formation group, as well.

Mary Linda

Robin M. said...

Hi, my boys are 5 1/2 and 9 now, just starting kindergarten and fourth grade.

I think the talk about a spiritual formation group is still in the talking about it stage. I'm going to miss this fall's quarterly meeting, but I hope to hear more about it afterwards.