Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Gets In Your Way?

The ministry in my Meeting on First Day centered around the question: “What does it mean to love your enemies?”

Out of the excellent ministry that this question prompted, someone defined “enemy” as “one who gets in your way.” This person said that she did not really have enemies; but if she asked herself, “who gets in my way?” her answer was: herself.

As I took this in, a new query crystallized for me. Because I too cannot identify particular people who get in my way (fortunately!), the query that emerged for me was: What gets in my way?

Sometimes it is things about me: my own fears; my own “temptations to despair” (George Fox used this language). But other times it is not me, nor particular people, but characteristics about our world today: especially the highly controlling structures of our world that can so easily frustrate those fragile whisperings of creativity that might be stirrings of the Spirit.

Of course we must be careful in our discernment about such matters for a different sort of reason as well. Sometimes “my way” is not really God’s way, and so what might be getting in “my” way might be the promptings of the Spirit to reconsider what I think “my” way is really supposed to be!

But when we’ve been trying to discern God’s way for us, and feel continued resistance, it can be helpful to try to identify the exact sources of the resistance. Understanding those sources can help us to figure out what to do about them.

Some additional follow-up queries I have found helpful:

  • Are these forces wise and benevolent? Do they know me – my best self? Or are they blind to who I really am and to the good I am trying to bring into being?
  • Do these forces twist the good I try to do into something negative and destructive? Why do they do that? Are they justified in doing that? (Do they know me well enough to legitimately question my own intentions and/or abilities?)
  • Are the forces mechanical and indifferent, or motivated by living energy? If they are motivated by living energy, is the energy positive energy of love and goodness, or negative energy of fear?

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