Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 - K for Knees

The general title of my long-running but (before the Quaker Alphabet Blog project) not regularly updated blog is, as you can see, Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones. This is a quotation from the refrain of a hymn which I heard by chance on the radio many years ago and which struck me as being the perfect title for my spiritual autobiography - the one that I haven't quite got round to writing yet!

I have shared parts of my spiritual journey here and in other places and I have spent a lot of time, in workshops and whenever opportunity arose, encouraging people to share their spiritual autobiography with others. I even wrote a book about my project but so far I have got no further. Lately I have been feeling that perhaps the time is right for me to concentrate a bit more on sharing my story, perhaps because I have become aware of another stumbling block in my way which I need to incorporate in my spiritual journey.

Quakers were not the only people in the 17th century to find a virtue in sharing spiritual experience. Many other puritans used this tool to unite their congregations and to encourage one another. One of them, Samuel Petto, an Independent puritan with Calvinist leanings, wrote these words in 1654 and I have often quoted them and found them helpful.

Christians know not what they lose, by burying their experience, they disable themselves for strengthening the weak hands and confirming the feeble knees of others; and it is a great disadvantage to themselves.

When I first came across these words I thought the imagery striking and it was not until I found the same words in another writer's work that I realised that Petto is referring to Isaiah 35,3. The context in which he uses the quotation, however, is his own and that was what spoke to me. He is saying that we don't know how much sharing our experience with others may help them and ourselves - very much the message I try to put across myself.

But what spoke to me most was the feeble knees. My own knees have been feeble for quite a few years, hurting occasionally and sometimes giving way. I knew that I had probably inherited my mother's osteoarthritis and in the last six months things have got a lot worse and the diagnosis has been confirmed. My left knee is worst and hurts whenever I walk on it. Going out for a walk is becoming more of an ordeal than a pleasure and I am often tempted not to try but to sit inside at my computer instead.

What stops me is a determination not to disable myself. Sharing this experience has brought me help from friends, from an understanding doctor and a helpful physiotherapist. There are things I can do to ameliorate the condition and accomodate myself to it without giving up. I am determined to keep going even though this stumbling block may prove very hard to turn into a stepping stone. I may even eventually write more than a blog about my continuing spiritual journey.

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