The first Opening I ever had was during a private meeting for worship with my husband to be and his grandmother. I heard distinctly and with absolute authority, “Marry him. It won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do. We had twobeautiful children together and then he became quite ill. It is clear to me now that I am called to be his advocate, andthat I was called to that work, though I didn’t know it at the time, the day we married.I have had other insights, but none that were as clear and clean and unexpected as that one. I take the unexpectedness as a sign that it wasn’t me tricking myself into some insight.
-Sue Tannehill Buffalo, NY
Since I’m an intellectual kind of guy, this happens a lot. The first I remember well was long ago, the time I was in myroom asking God, “You don’t really torment people for not believing this stuff, do you?” & strongly realizing the simple,obvious truth that my idea of mercy was God’s, that there was no way that God could fall short of it.
-Forrest Curo, San Diego Meeting
It was Seventh Day I believe and we had been going in conference mode for awhile. I needed abreak. I put my jacket on and found a sunny bench overlooking a barn at the bottom of a slopingdell. I turned to my current reading, Job Scott’s Essays on Salvation by Christ and read this line:
Men may do many works, which, as to the outward act, are good, or which would have been truly so had they been works of the new creation, and wrought of God in Christ,and which yet have no part in the great work of true justification.
The line spoke through me in a way that writing it here won’t explain. I knew that the Source wastrying to teach me using this paper, through the words and the ministry of a long-dead Friend. Iwas being told to be patient and to continue returning returning returning to prayer for guidance.The Spirit used these words to remind me to root all action in Christ’s fertile soil.
As I turned away from the bench and looked out across the snow-covered lawn in front of me, I understood that the consultation was another part of the great ongoing work of Quakerism, and the even greater ongoing joy of Spirit breaking out into the world. All the action plans andagendas that would come out of this talk meant less to God than my simple obedience and trust:right here and now and forever and everywhere. I knew it with the certainty that came from having the hand of that greatest of Comforters resting lightly on my shoulder, saying “hush, all’swell, this is where you should be.”
The unseen hand lifted and over walked a young Friend (who reads this blog, he can tell me whether I’m making too much of this moment). We had what we Friends call an Opportunity, that crazy turn of events when the Spirit is close enough where we can talk directly of its presence. After a few minutes, this too passed and two young Friends came stepped out of the old barn and looked up at us. We walked down and ended up playing four-person volleyball. “Idle games” inform, perhaps. But an hour or so later one of the players, a High School Friend, testified that our friendly game was the day’s most important in-breaking of the Spirit, as she had been terrorized by competitive volleyball-paying as a sophomore. As we played together, she felt a warmth andacceptance in all of our goofing off and in the loving comraderie and joyful ineptitude of our servesand volleys.It’s not about the program. It’s about the love. It’s about the obedience to follow the Spirits’sprompt out of book, into a conversation, then onto a makeshift volleyball court. We never trulyknow how we are being used. I share this testimony not to encourage volleyball use but to singaloud the Spirit’s beautiful unknowingness. What joy to know we can shake ourselves of our over-active agendas and know the Spirit experimentally!
-Martin Kelley. Affiliation: “It’s complicated”
I have received an opening. There have been a few, but the latest was about Jesus and the resurrection. My partnerhad died and had spoken to me in my sleep, shouting for me to wake up because of something that was happening. Idismissed it as a dream until I later learned the warning was an accurate one. An acquaintance told me to write itdown as I’d later rationalize it away. While doing so, it came to me that writers of the gospels and Acts did the samething. They put down their experiences for probably many reasons, but it seemed clear to me anyway that if Russellcould appear to me after his death, then certainly so could Jesus (I had had a previous experience of a vision of Christ8 years prior, but had already begun to rationalize it away as God who came to me as Jesus because I’m a Christian,and could have been another figure if I was of another religion). It became quite clear to me that Jesus was present and alive in my life, that it wasn’t myth.
-Anonymous, Seton Hill Worship Group / Homewood Friends
I find that openings on what to do or how to do things are a daily or hourly occurrence, if I’m open, caring and looking for them to be my guides. By no means am I open and faithful every day, yet. Or am I minimizing your question? There are in my life a few great opening experiences, as well.
-Jay Thatcher, Corvallis Friends Meeting, North Pacific YM
My experiences of Openings is cumulative. I have a real sense of G-d being Present and my understanding of G-dopening more fully when I put myself in a place to listen or act in alignment with the Kin-dom. Discernment of how todo this is a daily process, in ways large and small. Some experiences: Praying for a woman stretched to the utmost inchildbirth. Sitting at the side of a new mother whose boyfriend has been deported. Accompanying a friend of a friend who has been picked up Immigration and is in prison, thinking over his life and the road ahead. When I am in alignment in this way, I find I am given the gifts and community to understand or do what I alone would not have been capable of.
-Judy Goldberger, Beacon Hill Friends Meeting & Jamaica Plain Worship Group
A devoted spiritual life will have several “openings.” At age 20 I was led to move my small new family from Texas to Illinois to live in a Christian intentional community. At age 34, I was led to leave that community to become a Quaker.These are a couple of the “big ones” but there have been many others. I can’t name a simple commonality of all of them, though the ones I continue to view as important are those that changed how I view the world in profound ways.
-Anonymous, Northside Friends Meeting Chicago ILYM
1) at a Quaker workshop, seeing the way threads of my life were connected & whole when I had been experiencing them as disconnected & separate; 2) at School of the Spirit: knowing that Spirit knows me whole & will lead me into that wholeness; 3) in my meeting: being told by Spirit that if I believed there was that of God in all then I had to believe that there was that of God in Christ & in the writers of the Gospels.
-Lu from Rochester, NYYM
Multiple times. Once when I was weighing a job change that would require changing cities and making other significant shifts in my life, I heard a Voice advising me what to do.
Once, after witnessing to my faith in Christ in a difficult circumstance, I had a vision of Christ in which he lifted me from my knees to my feet, embraced me, and let me know that my ministry and witness were acceptable to Him, and that I should continue.
-Lloyd Lee Wilson, Rich Square MMeeting, NCYM-C
I have had the experience of way opening. Once a Friend laughed at me when I said that I was not an elder. That laugh took me to a place were i realized that without trying that I had become an Elder to my Meeting.
Yes! I have been so burdened by the bad stuff – war, hatred, global poverty, the unsustainable nature of lives in the my country (the U.K.) – and I had to let go of my ability to act rationally for good, because I could not see where to go forward. I was not able to sort my own life out in my own power, let alone help anyone else or get off the backs of the oppressed folk.
I was at home. It came to me that God could live the answers through me if I were willing to allow that deep powerto live in me. I want the good to come so earnestly that I am in the process of putting my whole life into God’s hands; I am not sure that anything less can save us as humans and the many creatures we affect.
-Alice Yaxley, Britain Yearly Meeting
last sunday, before meeting, while i was arranging flowers, i was told not to be less because others are not more.
-Anonymous, sandpoint friends meeting
Almost all incremental changes in my perceptions leading to what I hope is a better understanding of the Light andhow we live in it have been from the ministry of others, whether oral or through my reading. My one major shift inthat way came in a sermon in a community church administered through the Episcopalian faith tradition structure longbefore I became a convicted Friend, and which was probably the root of that convincement. The speaker shed newlight on the familiar passage, “I am the Way…” by saying that it had been interpreted through most of institutionalChristianity as EXclusive; that one had to believe in Jesus specifically in order to come to the Father, but the speakerfelt that it was intended to be INclusive; that anyone who came to the Father had come in the Way embodied byJesus. When I found the “the Doctrine of the Light,” I recognized it immediately.
Yes, there have been times when I’ve experienced “Openings” or aha moments when the divine has revealed soclearly an answer, a direction, a Truth. One of the Openings I experienced while walking a labyrinth early on a coldwinter morning struggling with inner resistance to an opportunity before me when the “inner jukebox” began to play,”Unchain My Heart” and I knew the message was to free the Spirit and allow it to work within me. The opportunitywas a gift of service, an opportunity to do God’s work and once I realized that, the way forward became clear.Surrender and accept.
-Anonymous, Rich Square Meeting (NCYMC)
While I had not been looking for a relationship with Jesus (in fact, Jesus did not seem important to my faith life), I have been given powerful encounters with him in prayer. The first was as part of lectio divina with a group in which we prayed with a scripture passage where Jesus healed someone. I imagined myself as in the crowd, on the edges,and Jesus came to me after he healed the person who had asked for it. This has led to continuing encounters with Jesus, even though I don’t know what I think of who is in relationship to God. Still, I now regularly look to him and to the Gospel stories to learn about how to love God and love my neighbor.
-Mary Kay Glazer, Ticonderoga NY Worship Group
Sure I have. The most common time for these experiences is during long walks but I have alsohad them in dreams. The common theme of these openings for me is to show me that I am too proud and to show me ways that I can serve others in humility.
As a matter of fact, no, I don’t really think I have. I believe other Friends’ reports about them; and I would love to have some (one?) of my own; but my experience has been more gradual. I’ve had times in meetings for worship (maybe speaking, maybe not) that felt like divine revelations,but little ones, not big picture-whole life ones, let alone now-I-understand-the-whole-cosmos ones.But the little ones build up to big-picture, you know.
As I think about it, perhaps my first time speaking in meeting could count as a little Opening. (I was not raised Quaker, and attended meeting for three years before I first spoke.) I did feel like part of my soul opened up, and something outside opened to/for me. What I said wasn’t the memorable part for me; but the realization that even I could be connected with the divine… that was pretty life-changing..
-Frederick Martin; Monadnock Meeting, New England