A Humbling Conviction

by Joann Neuroth

Last week brought me a humbling, and at the same time encouraging, experience. I woke one
morning with what I think early Quakers might have termed a “conviction” experience: a palm-
to-forehead groan accompanied by “Oh no, Joann – you did it again. You were THAT PERSON
you don’t want to be.” I had just remembered an exchange from the previous evening’s
Worship & Ministry committee meeting in a new light. Probably, in fact, a new Light. And I
knew with certainty that I needed to repent and repair. See what I mean by “humbling?”

My meeting was just coming off a lively and engaged closing retreat from our 2023 Faithful
Meetings pilot engagement. And ironically, the committee was reflecting and appreciating how
much of the day’s energy and authenticity could be attributed to hearing more diverse voices
than we’re used to: New people were speaking up in questioning and even challenging ways.
Long time regulars were admitting to doubts about things we’ve taken for granted. People for
whom zoom/hybrid worship has been a lifeline were surprised and thoughtful about realizing
that for others there has been a cost to technology’s presence in our sacred space. People who
pride themselves on Quakers’ lack of “rules” heard from others who’d run into them that there
are indeed expectations we hold, and that it would behoove us to be more clear about them.
Opportunities for dialogue and mutual listening were opening up, and instead of trying to line
up and defend one side or the other alternative, people were asking for more organized
chances to explore, listen, sit with and learn from our differences.

Into the middle of that committee discussion, another committee member voiced a viewpoint
sharply different from mine. Did I welcome it and invite others to explore it in the spirit we
were celebrating? I did not. I whirled and pretty much swatted her down. Without feeling any
conscious anger or resistance or impulse to dominate, I reflexively and simply wanted to correct
her. Luckily, she didn’t wilt under my onslaught and with the help of others in the room we
made our way to “both-and.” I hadn’t even noticed anything awry. But on the next morning’s
awakening, I was convicted. My Inner Teacher has pointed this out before, and I know in what
Faith and Play calls “the Deep Deep Place” that for me, dwelling closer to Spirit involves taming
my self-confident, pro-active, solution-oriented self with a good dose of openness and curiosity
and willingness to co-create. And I’d forgotten it again.

Here’s where the “encouraging” part begins. I didn’t waste any time on shame, denial or
regret. I’m more able to remember nowadays that being available to Spirit means bringing my
whole, flawed self and “growing on” from exactly where I am. So I was able to send a matter-
of-fact email to my fellow committee members thanking them for gently accommodating me,
regretting that I hadn’t found the grace to opt for curiosity instead of domination right away
and asking for their continued help to nudge me when they see me erring in this way in the
future. George Fox’s words came true for me:

Stand still in that which is pure [true], after ye see yourselves; and then mercy
comes in. After thou seest thy thoughts and temptations, do not think, but
submit; and then power comes in. Stand still in that which shows and discovers;
and then doth strength immediately come. And stand still in the Light, and
submit to it, and the other will be hushed and gone; and then contentment

The words came to me in (SotS grad) Paulette Meier’s exquisite plainsong chant, as they often
do because that’s how I’ve memorized them. You can hear Paulette’s clear alto voice chanting
them here.

May your week ahead be graced with opportunities to claim such mercy and feel the
outpouring of inner strength and power to do what you need to do from there.

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2 thoughts on “A Humbling Conviction”

  1. I so appreciate this post. I, too, am on Worship and Ministry, and I, too, often choose domination and dismissal over invitation to further discourse. This piece has given me inspiration to not waste time in shame or self-reproach. I know that Spirit wants me to “grow on” and so rather than rotate off the committee at the end of my term in March, I have agreed to continue. I’m realizing that I can’t see my shadow in my own light – it takes bumping up against others’ light to illuminate it. May we both continue to grow on with Spirit’s help. ????

    1. Yes! Your observation that one’s own shadow is where we learn reminds me of a favorite Rilke poem I was introduced to years ago by LVM of New England YM: Go To the Limits of Your Longing (https://onbeing.org/poetry/go-to-the-limits-of-your-longing/) Instead of cringing at having a shadow, the poem has God encouraging us to “Make Big Shadows I can move in.” Of course! My shadow is where I still have learning to do — where God is dancing with me.

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