In June the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women’s Theology Conference will gather women from Canadian, North Pacific and Northwest Yearly Meetings at a retreat center in Oregon. This will be my first time, and I’m looking forward to the experience. This year’s theme centers on grace. I find myself pondering grace a lot these days, asking, among other things, about the Quaker perspective on grace.
As preparation for the conference, we were asked to write a short essay on grace and submit it to the conference web site. Here’s my offering:
Last Saturday we began an all-day elders retreat with an eclectic contemplative exercise. I find the combination of traditions grace-filled. In this case we combined the medieval labyrinth walk with Ignatian prayers of examine and a dab of Quaker silence thrown in. On the way in to the center of the labyrinth we meditated on the desolations in our lives (all that currently separates us from God), and on the way out we pondered our consolations.
The desolation that quickly came to mind was disappointment in my lack of vocational discipline—my inability these days to write or pray with any regularity. I’m disappointed in myself. And I can’t help but feel that God is also disappointed in me. Instead of letting the deep joy of these callings energize me, I’ve become strangled by guilt at my lack of productivity. As I walked I confessed and lifted this up to God.
Even before I reached the center, I sensed the quiet voice of Jesus saying simply, “My grace is sufficient for you.” I felt his smile and began to relax from the inside out. He reminded me that it’s not what I do for him that gives me value. He loves me. As I am. And his grace is all I need.
“My grace is sufficient for you, Nancy. Follow me.”
And I was reminded that not only is God’s grace sufficient, but that “There are no limits to the grace of God, who will make sure you will always have enough of everything and even a surplus for good works.”
I know I will continue to struggle with feelings of inadequacy and the pressure to be productive. I’m a child of my culture. But on a deeper level, I’m a child of God, and I’m growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus. That’s my hope as I walk the very real labyrinth of life.
In the next few weeks, I will continue to ponder and post thoughts on grace. I invite responses as I explore a Quaker theology of grace. Non-Quaker responses are, of course, welcomed.