Quakers often speak of experiencing the electrifying presence of the Holy Spirit. Without having experienced this directly, I might have thought this idea was imaginary. I would have wondered why Quakers feel it, but Catholics don't. If God loves everyone, why do the Quakers get to experience this physical connection to the Divine, while in my Catholic childhood I prayed the prayers I was taught to pray, asked for forgiveness of my sins, and led an obedient life, only to vaguely imagine a distant father God in Heaven looking down from a great throne. Most of my life, I was intimidated by religion and even more intimidated by the bible. I was so confused and afraid of God that I clung to secular pursuits of knowledge. God and religion were two topics that were discussed so often and at such great lengths in my upbringing that as an adult I avoided discussion to preserve my sense of self and well being. While I remained a believer, I also had been building a wall of protection.
I understand why people are uncomfortable in discussing matters of faith. It is such a private matter. I have a few friends who cringe if I happen mention something about God. I have compassion in these situations, and try not to carry on to make both of us feel awkward. I'm not trying to convert anyone, but I'm no longer in the closet. I'm trying to learn to balance my excitement about spiritual happenings without turning people away with my exuberance.
But this week, this incredibly emotional week, something spiritual happened.
When I was full of worry and anxiety, I remembered to be not afraid. In the final moments, I yielded. I put down my super-sized ego and waited for God to work through me. And my heart thundered. As I sat in a courtroom ready to let God say what He wanted to say through me, I was quaking with the electrifying presence. Some people might say that this was just nerves.
It wasn't just nerves, although I was nervous at first. When the nervousness fell away I knew what that pounding heart was all about. That thundering heart was happening because something powerful was filling me, carrying me.
And suddenly, it was gone. I was released. I was not required to provide testimony because of a sudden and unexpected turn of events. I left the courtroom in a disoriented state of confusion, topped by an elated sense of utter relief. I'm not certain if I will be commanded to appear at a later time, but now I am no longer afraid.
Today I am so grateful for being released, but also filled with a new understanding. While we work so hard to be strong in this world, to stand up for ourselves, to build our muscles through resistance training, it is easy to forget the transforming power of yielding.
While I work to build my physical muscles, I have a new challenge. Every day there will be a new opportunity to train the ego to yield, to step down, to let go. To let all the intellectual debating fall away. To let the hardened clay of my personality be softened and remolded to new purposes.
In yielding we are empowered by the Spirit.