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By Christine O'Brien

Heart Wings illustration by Christine O'Brien'
Illustration by Christine O'Brien
My first memory in this life is of me swinging high in my swing in the black walnut tree in front of our farmhouse. I was looking along the dirt road that wound downhill through the fields and across a little stream near Jess and Fat's cherry orchard.

I was ecstatic. I felt myself a part of the house, the barnyard, the road, the tiny stream, my walnut tree, the very air itself.

I was from a religious family, and so I understood this as the grace of God

When I grew older and began to hear of Hell, and of God's wrath, I didn't say anything, but I knew those grownups were wrong. I had, by then, experienced feeling filled with the spirit many times. I knew God would never hurt anyone. I knew that God was not a person with human limitations. In fact, in my Sunday school books, God seemed to me to be the crepuscular rays streaming from behind mounded clouds.

My earliest religious education came from my grandmother, who said that God is love. And not a small love, but a love that passes all understanding. I thought that when we died, God would see beyond our mistakes to the broken parts underneath, and heal us as Jesus healed.

As the years passed, my personal spiritual life did not match up with much I experienced in church, though I loved going to church, and, in my family, we spent a lot of time there. I played the piano for Sunday school hymn singing and watched the shifting glow of light through the stained glass window above the choir loft. Music and light held me up through those years.

When I became a teenager, I began to rebel against the injustice I saw done in spite of the words spoken on Sunday morning. I found it difficult to feel connected to the churches I attended because they seemed to accept racism, and the Vietnam War, and dirt-poor farmworkers.

Then I found the Quakers, where all of these concerns and many more were held in the Light - in silence, and through brief, heartfelt spoken words. Quakers saw the wrongs and tried to heal them through love in the world, and through love in their own hearts. The Friends call themselves seekers, and I was blessed to seek along with them.

I no longer believed in God as an entity, and did not think I was a Christian according to the requirements of that faith. I didn't have any idea what would happen after death, but I didn't feel concerned about it. Living this life in a way that felt right seemed the best course, no matter what happened after death. I felt the indwelling spirit. I still believed that whatever God is, it is love. And though some of my family thought I had become a heathen, the Quakers accepted me, and loved me, and still do.

As I think about being saved, and how many times I have been saved (even last night by my friend in a dream), redemption becomes part of holding each other up with a tender hand. We redeem ourselves everyday by the things we do and the things we do not do.