My yearly meeting reads our Advices aloud at close of sessions following meeting for worship on First Day. When I reread the Advices to myself, I often hear my father's inflection on certain words, like "worship" and "banal" as he has read them aloud in recent years. It's a very comforting piece of prose, even this part:

"For although we recognize the children of our members as objects of our care, and partakers of the outward privileges of Christian fellowship, we would earnestly remind all that such recognition cannot constitute them members of the Lord's Spiritual Israel. Nothing can effect this but the power of the Holy Spirit working repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, let the words of our Holy Redeemer have due place with us all, "Ye must be born again." May all of our members become such on the ground of true conversion, and be prepared in their several places to bring forth fruit unto God."

For years, I glossed over the importance of all that "Holy Redeemer" and "born again" stuff. It just wasn't relevant to my life or my experience. That language was used by hypocritical, judgemental people who were far more concerned with getting into Heaven than making God happy. The important part of that passage to me, for many years was the idea that one had to have a real relationship with God in order to be a member of the meeting. You couldn't just go through the motions or grow up in the meeting.

I joined the meeting I grew up in a long time ago. It wasn't some sort of life-changing experience, I was just ready to join in the spiritual life of the meeting. I served on committees and attended business meeting. I began to speak in meeting, albeit reluctantly.

I related to the conversion stories in the journals of early Friends. I heard the voice of the Lord audibly from an early age, so early that it didn't occur to me that this wasn't a perfectly normal experience until I was in my late teens. I saw things. I felt things. But I didn't have a deer-in-the-headlights moment of conversion myself. I understood continuing revelation as a slow life-long process.

Fast forward to another First Day worship at close of sessions almost two years ago. I was freaking out. I knew that way was opening for me to move to Boston and I knew that a large part of my motivation for leaving North Carolina was to get away from the evidence of my mistakes. I was deeply fearful that I'd failed in His plan for me so utterly, He'd just given up on me. And for the first time, I let go of the anger. I'd always blamed God when I failed. If He'd given me just a little more guidance or asked something a little more realistic I would've been able to pull it off. There I was, wallowing in my newfound awareness of my sins and as soon as I had listed everything I could think of that I wished I had done differently, every aspect of myself that falls short of perfection and apologized for it all, I felt His hand on my forehead as I heard His voice say: "You are forgiven".

I've been a different person since then. Sometimes it's more obvious to me than other times. I've been handling the difficult things in my life a lot better. I spend less time berating God and I'm far less reluctant to speak the messages I'm given in worship. I'm just generally calmer. I can't go so far as to say I've found anything that resembles Joy, but I have I been born again of the incorruptible seed. And it has made me a better person.

I'm writing all this not to try to convince anyone to say some magic words like "I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior." Those stories are a dime a dozen and never spoke to me. I believe that we each have our own path to travel and so long as we are faithful to our Guide, we'll get where we need to be. I can't give any sort of advice on how to be obedient. All I'm saying is that this is what happened to me and I'm not being allowed to hide it anymore, apparently.

"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever." 1 Peter 1:22-23

I still believe that continuing revelation is a slow life-long process. I don't have all the answers and I never will, but each day is an opportunity to learn just a little more and grow just a little closer to Christ.

Elizabeth Bathurst

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