As I have had conversations with people about core truths of Quakerism, reflecting on our faith, values and practice, there has been one level of thinking that keeps popping up. To put it into a query: "To what extent do we act as if our practice of silence feeds a sense of righteousness because we believe God only speaks through the silence?" I quickly take this to another level of query: "To what extent might it not be that God speaks to us, but that we can become more practiced in deep listening that is perhaps our greater asset to the world?"
Here's what I mean: Our practice is to wait in silence and to be spirit-led in our Meeting messages as well as in our Meetings for Business. What seems to happen is that we go through this process and then take what emerges as our marching orders. We often proceed with a clarity of "here's what needs to happen", "here's where the injustice is", etc.
But what if we instead went forth with a commitment to nurturing and seasoning the sense of the group no matter where we go? Imagine going and sitting in conversation, fellowship, and service with people of other faiths, cultures and beliefs, and listening for the spirit and sense in that gathering. I don't mean sitting with fellow liberals or moderates of different faiths or colors - that's too easy. I mean, sitting with people where we are not necessarily welcome or may not feel comfortable, and being a loving presence, listening for God.
I am learning to view our practice in our Meetings for Worship for Worship with a concern for Business (or any other issue) as just that: PRACTICE. But, as a former runner, I know that practice is what we do in preparation for the real events, the ones that engage the "other". And, rather than look at this as a competition where we want to be the better/wiser person, we instead want to be the best bridge-builder, listener, loving-presence. Let it be our practice and our process that we bring forth externally, rather than hold it internally while sharing the outward message.