New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Inner Transformation: One Friend's Experience

by Frances Lightsom, West Falmouth (MA) Friends Meeting

For several months I have been spending a lot of time with Isaac Penington’s “Letter to Friends in Amersham.” I was familiar with the start, “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness.” But then it goes on:

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand, if there has been any slip or fall; and waiting till the Lord gives sense and repentance, if sense and repentance in any be wanting.

When I first got that far, I thought, “Oh, Friend Isaac, you have more faith than I have!” Several weeks later, I realized that I, myself, had been wanting sense and repentance and had received it as a gift. It happened like this.

One morning, years ago, I was sitting quietly. Looking back, I would say I was holding a problem in the Light, but at the time I was not a Quaker yet, so my goal was to sit with awareness of the problem without getting captured by my usual stories and emotions. My problem was a challenge at work, where I had recently transitioned from a job managing data to be a supervisor of people who manage data. I was unprepared for the complexity of people. I was resentful. I was afraid of failure. As I sat, it was as if the room filled with golden light, and I was given the gift of unconditional love for my co-workers. Along with the love came the insight that my co-workers and I are not fundamentally separate, but are instead the pieces of a larger whole, each given a different role to play in life. The co-workers I had resented, I now saw as having been given difficult roles, and I was filled with gratitude that my role was less difficult. From that day, my supervisory approach was love, and forgiveness, and helping those up who have had a slip or fall. As Friend Isaac says, I was given sense and repentance.

Soon afterward, I started attending Quaker meeting, and Friends helped me stay open to continuing gifts of sense and repentance. As the circle of my unconditional love expanded, I started looking for food sources that did not involve exploitation of people, cruelty to animals, or destruction of ecosystems. It became harder to ignore news about the impacts of climate change: Island nations and coastal cities running out of dry land and fresh water. Farmers leaving their land because of drought. Migrations of desperate people, not welcomed but met with fear and resentment. Forests dying, disease spreading, droughts, floods, wild fires. Earthquakes caused by fracking.

It became harder for me to ignore the seeds of these injustices in my way of life. I stopped using fossil fuels to evaporate the water out of my laundry. I got a home energy assessment and took the recommended actions. I cut back my driving and switched to electricity from renewable sources. But after that it got too complicated.

Since I learned of the Transforming Love Calculator, I have been visiting it periodically to discover more ways that climate injustice is nourished by my way of living and actions I can take to reduce the harm. The Lord gave me sense and repentance, but for tracing consequences, calculating trade-offs, and ranking priorities, a bit of science and technology is a wonderful thing. I find truth in the message that was given to Friend Caroline Fox:

Live up to the light thou hast, and more will be granted thee.

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

(508) 754-6760 - [email protected]