My Quaker Yoda - or - On Spiritual Maturity

today's UPI column
So There I was...
Sitting in the big-city hospital waiting room. My friend and mother Vivian had been rushed there from the Oregon Coast Quaker retreat center. She had suffered a heart attack followed by a massive stroke. She was in the middle of her eighth decade of life.

Vivian did not give birth to me any natural fashion. That was apparent that morning because one of her natural born children was doing a fine and appropriate job of protecting her mother’s repose and it was clear that I was not going to get in to see her. Absolutely appropriate, and painful as a red-hot poker.

I met Vivian when I was in my twenties. She is not the reason I became a Quaker, but she is a big piece of the reason that I stayed a Quaker. She was a big part of my accepting the process of becoming a recorded minister and a public Friend. She has been a mother to my soul.

She is hard to quantify or qualify. She is a little tiny thing, and getting tinier with time. Her eyes can still flash blue fire, but the rest of her has gone velvety soft, her muscles no longer fill out her skin. Her voice is almost always soft and gentle, but she has much of Christ in her, so she carries a power that infinitely greater than it’s container. She laughs easily and often. She has rebuked me, and occasionally reigned me in. She has shed tears over me. She has breathed fire into me. She has salved my wounds.

She and her life partner Hubert facilitated the wedding for my first-born and her young man. Hubert is no larger than Vivian. My son-in-law is six foot something; my Emily is a foot shorter than he. It looked like the pastors of Hobbiton Friends Church were marrying off a favorite daughter to an elf-Lord. But my Son-in-law, an observant young man, nailed the best ever description of our Vivian.

“I get it now” he said. “Vivian is Yoda – she’s your Jedi master.”

Vivian put me on the road to spiritual maturity, and she has walked that road before me. She has always made time to teach me when I need it. The following is what I have learned from her by word and observation.

Our value as children of God does not depend on our spiritual maturity - grandparents do not have more intrinsic worth than the babies - but neither are they less valuable. So it is with spiritual maturity. It is merely the natural consequence of time spent in the presence of the Holy One, like age is the natural consequence of life. But maturity is a need of, and a blessing to, the Body of Christ. It can be sought, but not acquired. The goal must be Christ - the by-product is maturity.

Maturity can be seen in terms of Freedom. We were created to be free. Christ died and rose to restore us to a place of freedom. Spiritual maturity is the presence of spiritual freedom and the absence of spiritual slavery.

A spiritually mature person is free to bring pleasure to others, without needing to make them happy all the time.

A Free Christian can be honest, and will know how to be respectfully honest with their thoughts, behaviors and feelings.

They will not need to revise the past to feed their ego or ease their pain.

They will be free to follow their path and change course when it seems wise to them.

They will be free to listen to God and to follow.

They will be free from the slavery of what people will think of them.

They will be free from a morbid fear of rejection.

They will be free from the need to collect second-hand information about the thoughts, words and actions of others as a way to buttress their own opinions and self-esteem

They will be free to bless those who disagree with them.

They will be free from the need to correct all misconceptions that others may have of them.

They will be free to trust that Christ will work in others as He works in them.

They will be free from the need to make others “get it”.

They will be free to let go when appropriate, to speak when appropriate and to act when appropriate.

They will be free to take personal responsibility for all their thoughts and behaviors and feelings.

They will be free to ask for, and then accept, criticism from trusted guides.

They will be free to apologize and make amends where possible.

All these things I learned from Christ through Vivian. I have seen her live them out. She will, of course, discount this when she reads this because she has also mastered humility.

Yes, she will read this. She was in a hospital with some mighty fine doctors. After two hours of no blood flow to the entire left half of her brain, they managed to surgically remove the blood clot. Then they put in a pacemaker. Shortly thereafter she opened her eyes and looked at Hubert and said.

“Hubert, you’ve been in those clothes for three days now, don’t you think you ought to change?”

Nice piece on "Flo." (That's my name for her...her first name is Florence.) Its great to hear about your experience of her. Makes me proud to be one of her offspring and very nice to have you as a sister.

I have really enjoyed your blog! I look forward to meeting you next month in Oklahoma at the Quaker Women's Conference!
Bro, I knew about "Flo" but you are the only person I have ever known to get away with calling her that.

Liz - see you soon!
Thank you, Peggy. That was lovely and a beautiful tribute. When Hubert and Vivian came to South Salem I was 11 and two of my goals in life were to be taller than them and maybe to be more like them in some important ways. The first goal only took me about a year and 35 years later I'm still working on the other. I told her once I wished she were my grandma but had no idea I would one day marry her grandson and get to live out that dream. One of my great comforts in life is to know each and every day that Hubert and Vivian pray for me. Wow.......
What a wonderful piece. I have had so many great teachers in my life. Some were very young, some were older. I have never felt that God has a calendar and one day says, "You are mature enough to carry my message.". One of my favorite messages is that of innocence and simplicity that is carried by a young child. The sound of the little smurfy voice exclaiming in wonderment about something I have taken for granted, lifts my soul and makes me smile.
Beautifully said, and a profound truth.
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