I was appalled. I was at Yearly Meeting for the first time, and a speaker had invited people to come forward in a way that sounded just like an altar call.
The speaker had been talking about the power of words spoken in anger to wound people we love. He said that being hurt by words can be as painful as being hit with a rock and can leave lasting scars. At the end of his message, before we entered open worship, he pointed to a pile of roundish flat stones on the stage nearby and invited anyone who used hurtful words when angry to come forward, pick up a stone and kneel down to receive prayer. He then encouraged people to keep the stone to carry in their pockets as a reminder of the power of words to hurt.
As we entered open worship, I bowed my head and closed my eyes, but I was too upset to pray. Altar calls were routine in churches I attended growing up, but I was a Quaker now and felt strongly that altar calls were unQuakerly. I wanted to leave the meeting and decided that I could probably do it without being noticed. People were moving up and down the aisles in response to the call, and I was seated at the back of the auditorium.
Suddenly, I felt a powerful urge to go forward, pick up a stone and kneel down to receive prayer. This was insane! The urge felt like a leading, but it couldn’t be! I tried to push the feelings away, to no avail. My eyes kept fluttering open, and I felt practically lifted up and propelled forward. For long minutes, I struggled to keep my eyes closed and stay in my seat. Finally, worship ended and I practically ran from the auditorium.
Driving home, I admitted to myself that God had urged me to get a stone and receive prayer, and I’d refused. And I had to admit that the request was fair. My son Jesse could be temperamental, and although he was only 10 years old, he sometimes seemed to think he knew more than I did. At times, I lost patience and said things that probably hurt. I told God I was sorry and asked for help.
The next day, as I was unloading the washing machine, I saw a smooth round stone at the bottom of the tub that looked a lot like the ones on the stage.
I knew Jesse had found the stone and put it in his pocket, and I knew it was meant for me. I asked him if I could keep it for awhile, and he said, sure, for as long as I wanted.
Later, I laughed again (ruefully) when I saw in a flash of Light that my stubborn refusal to follow God’s leading was a lot like Jesse’s most know-it-all behavior. And it was also unQuakerly.