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My first couple times in trying to center down to unprogrammed worship was a struggle. Not being raised in it at all, being raised in the Pentecostal tradition, I came into this like, “Well, I’m supposed to be listening to the light… hmmm! And this isn’t working!”
What Do Quakers Mean By the Inner Light?
Well, the Inner Light is also called by many different names by Quakers: the Inward Light, the Light of Christ, that of God within.
Early Friends got the expression from the first chapter of the gospel of John, where we find in verse 9 the phrase, “the true light, which enlightens everyone coming into the world.”
Early Friends understood that to be the Light of Jesus Christ. It was not a metaphor, but it was the real presence of Christ within.
It was also called “the seed” because it represented something very small of God planted inside. The phrase “the seed” suggests that that small thing might not grow if you block it up, if you ignore it, if you have all these distractions.
So it’s very much an energetic, alive thing. It’s not just this sort of light switch that flips on or off depending on whether you see it. It’s this force and a Spirit that we all get to share and get to experience together, hopefully, if we’re aware that it’s there. So it’s a process of being observant.
The Light That Guides Us
I guess the way for me to speak about the Light that guides us is to think about what happens when we don’t have light to guide us. So we’re fumbling around in the dark, we’re humans, we don’t have night vision. We can’t see where we’re going.
Noah Baker Merrill
One of the quotations that has always spoken to me is the instructions of an early Quaker named James Naylor who talks about those times in our lives where we feel surrounded by confusion and darkness, by a spiritual sense of being lost or being in danger.
And he says, “Art thou in the darkness? Well mind it not, for if you mind it, it will feed thee more. [It will grow in you.] But stand still and act not and wait in patience until Light arises out of darkness to lead thee.”
And that has been my experience. That there is a power and a life that rises in those places of darkness in our lives if we can wait and open to it.
The Light That Illuminates
And so the Light is that presence of God that illuminates for us. It might show us a way forward. It might embrace us and welcome us into the inward life.
It’s experienced as an inward kind of illumination that shows you things. It shows you—oftentimes first of all—what is not of the Light or what is blocking the Light.