In his Pendle Hill pamphlet last year, Marking the Quaker Path: Seven Key Words Plus One, Robert Griswold opens with the term “condition,” which initially seems familiar enough. Quakers often remark to a comment, “This speaks to my condition,” or even “the Friend speaks my mind,” conveying a sense of unity and affirmation.
Griswold, though, gives the concept a darker twist, noting that a meaningful spiritual journey requires seeing ourselves in our places of failure and weakness rather than a state of “being in charge,” as we so often do. Think of Anne Lamott’s “three essential prayers” — Help, Thanks, and Wow — and admit a long personal list invoking the first.
I would extend that awareness of condition not just to ourselves individually but to our families and circles of faith and then the wider society. I’d say there’s great need everywhere.
This, then, leads to the subsequent steps where we turn to the Holy One and our kindred spirits for direction and growth.
Curiously, condition is not a word I find used widely in either Scripture or early Quaker literature – not directly, that is – but it does fit the situation of many people as they set out in faith as recorded in both.
Could it be that in many of our religious circles, we’ve been running away from this very difficult but essential challenge? We go to worship looking for rest and renewal, not more turmoil and suffering.
O, Lord, give us strength!
More of my own reflections on alternative Christianity are found at Religion Turned Upside Down.