“The that of God in me is really having a hard time seeing the that of God in thee today,” I said once to a Quaker whom I was finding more than a little bit annoying. And I’ve thought that a bunch more than once. “That of God in everyone” is one of those quirky Quaker concepts based in scripture. John 1:9 specifically. “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” Everyone being the operative word. “Red and yellow, black and white” as the old children’s Sunday school song says. Also straight, gay, bi, man, woman, trans, boy, girl, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, and on and on. We Quakers think it’s part of the Gospel, not some clunky add-on.
As radical Friends of Jesus, the early Quakers took that as a literal truth. If I’m enlightened by the light of Christ and the Bible says that everyone else is, then I’d better start looking at them with enlightened eyes. Sounds simple. But it’s often difficult. Sometimes I have a hard time recognizing that of God in myself – let alone in someone who just cut me off on the freeway or jumped in front of me in the boarding line of a flight. You know, the important things of life!
And yet that’s what George Fox, one of the first Friends, told us we were to do – to answer that of God in everyone. Actually he said we were to walk cheerfully over the earth answering that of God in everyone.
Cheerfully?! Wonder if he and Jesus would settle for grudgingly answering that of God in everyone? Nah, probably not.
Which is why I had to change my attitude recently when someone called and wanted to come for a visit. “I’d just like to get to know you better,” he said. Well, I had been out mowing and running a line trimmer in the August heat. I was sweaty, grass covered, and almost finished. I’d have to finish the job some other day and go get a shower and dress in clean clothes.
I was not a happy Quaker camper. I was job obsessed and not in the mood for chatting. But, I thought as I looked across the yard and saw Nancy weeding, it’s not all about me. I thought of that while looking at her because she tells me that all time. So I put the trimmer up, took a shower on, applied some cheerfulness along with my deodorant, and put on my freshly cleaned, grass free glasses – ready to look for that of God in Nancy and my newish friend. And in everyone else I might encounter that day.
I say “that day” because this is something I seem to need to learn anew everyday.