‘It is not easy to be patterns and examples and walk cheerfully during this pandemic.’

Thought for the week: David Brown gets in deep water

‘We are invited to be practical mystics: to offer light and love and hope and good cheer.’ | Photo: nito100 / iStock.com.

I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that also I saw the infinite love of God.’ (George Fox, 1647)

‘Swim in the ocean of light and love’ rather than ‘drown in the ocean of darkness’ was a challenge offered to us in ministry recently. Let us imagine swimming in that ocean of light and love. How does it feel? It gives us a sense of serenity, peace, healing and strength. What can this lead to in our lives?

Fox also said that ‘living in the truth ye live in the love and unity… in the light walk, and ye will shine’. But what does it mean for us to shine?

I once wrote a poem to try to answer this: ‘We need to bathe in these waters of peace, to heal our pain and our fear / To open like flowers in the light of the sun, to allow our true selves to appear / Love requires us to show our light, to help the frightened and weak / To use our gifts to heal the world and let our lives truly speak.’

I tried to connect to another famous message from George Fox, this time from 1656: ‘Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.’

As Quakers we are invited to be practical mystics: to offer light and love, and hope and good cheer, to the world wherever we may be, and whoever we may be with, especially in these dark times. But it is not easy to be patterns and examples and walk cheerfully during this pandemic. What can we do to deal with feelings of depression or powerlessness?

Many of us are finding that we need to do more spiritual practice than before, to keep positive and creative and helpful. The extra time that some of us have offers great opportunities for spiritual practice. Perhaps we can all discover, as our Friend Elfrida Vipont Foulds did in 1983, that with practice and discipline we can find ‘the place of inward retirement’ wherever we are and whatever we are doing… ‘a place which is there all the time and always available’ (adapted from Quaker faith & practice 2.21). And, as Gordon Matthews wrote in 1987, almost prophetically for these times: ‘We need to be willing to be led into the dark as well as through green pastures and by still waters. We do not need to be afraid of the dark, because God is there. The future of this earth need not be in the hands of the world’s “leaders”. The world is in God’s hands if we are led by God. Let us be led by the Spirit. Let us walk with a smile into the dark.’ (Qf&p 29.01).

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