My Spiritual Journey, Epilogue
This post covers the gap between when I presented my spiritual journey in 2008 up to the present day. You can also read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
It feels like a lot has happened to me since I presented my spiritual journey to Atlanta Friends Meeting. There was one thing that was very significant to me that I left out of my spiritual journey, which happened in sixth month of 2008. When I attended the fourth month Representative Body meeting of North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative, I happened to talk with Lloyd Lee Wilson and I indicated some interest in traveling in the ministry - I can't remember exactly what I said, though. Lloyd Lee said that he thought I should come to this gathering of ministers that Charlie Ansell (then of Virginia Beach meeting) was organizing, that would be held in Woodland, NC in sixth month. Way opened for us to go, and it was a blessed time. The folks there were Lloyd Lee Wilson, Charlie Ansell, Deborah Fisch, Connie McPeak Green, Marty Grundy, David Eley, and me. Susan Wilson and Janice Ansell were also with us for a little while, but they were also taking care of the hospitality. We didn't have an agenda, we just sat in worship and waited for the Lord to lead us.
When I first saw who would be there, I felt quite intimidated, and it kinda felt like getting a chance to be the bat boy for the '27 Yankees. These Friends were all very kind to me and made me feel like I belonged there. It meant a tremendous amount to me. Towards the end of the meeting, we were reflecting on our experience there, and someone said that it was great that they weren't trying to "one-up" each other, and someone else said it was also great that they weren't trying to out-humble each other. I am very grateful to Lloyd Lee for arranging for me to be there, and to Charlie for following his leading.
Probably the biggest thing that has happened to me since I presented my journey is that I am now in the School of the Spirit "On Being a Spiritual Nurturer" program. It has been an incredible experience so far. In our first residency, Lloyd Lee Wilson came and spoke to us, as did his traveling companion Charlie Ansell. Charlie spoke about his role as an elder, and he had a lot of great things to say even though I don't think he knew ahead of time that he would be speaking. As Lloyd Lee spoke about his plain dress, it awakened something in me. It started with the beard, which he gave a name to - a tauferbard (believer's beard). There was something about naming it that was important to me. As a result, I decided to try growing one. Lloyd Lee, in talking about discernment, said "Don't stand there on the dock waiting to see if you're led to get on the boat to America. Get on the boat and see if you're led to get off." I took that to heart with my beard, first growing the beard out, then seeing if I still felt led to shave off the mustache (Ceal was skeptical but she actually likes the beard, as long as I let her trim it occasionally).
There were three reasons why this change in my appearance appealed to me. First, a tauferbard is a symbol of Christian pacifism. Second, I thought it would make me stand out a little more. It's not that I want to stand out in order to say to the world "hey, look at me", but rather to say to myself "hey, the world's looking at you, watch what you do." I thought it would help me be more aware of what I was doing and how it appeared to people. Third, I wanted to invite conversation.
Since then, I have been moving more in the direction of plain dress. In a way, it is like I have come full circle from my first day at meeting when I wore a white oxford shirt and black dockers. I am back to that, although I also have some gray oxford shirts. I have also started wearing suspenders. I think the look has helped me feel more separate than just the beard by itself. I can't bring myself to take the collars off the shirts, although if I could easily but the collarless ones I probably would. At first I was just dressing that way for work, but would still wear t-shirts and such on the weekends, but now I wear the same thing every day, and I feel really comfortable with it.
I did have some difficulties at School of the Spirit, that I think I attribute to not being comfortable with myself and expecting myself to change in certain ways. Certainly I have changed since I started, but I thought maybe I would become a more chatty person, that during breaks I would be standing around talking about various things with my classmates. But, that's just not me. I'm happy to talk with people, but unless there is something specific I want to talk about with someone, I don't generally go seeking conversation. I think there are probably times at meals when I don't say a thing, I just listen to what everyone else is saying. That bothered me for a while, but I have come to embrace it as part of who I am. I have also had a tendency to hold my call to ministry at arm's length, even though I get lots of encouragement from various sources. That is something I have been willing to embrace more firmly, and I feel it deepening.
At some point I plan to post my School of the Spirit research paper here. It has one of those old style long titles "The Message of the Eminent and Faithful Friend and Minister of Christ Jesus, George Fox, As Revealed by the Quotations of Scripture in his Epistles Unto Friends." I am in the middle of teaching the material during the Adult Ed classes at Atlanta Friends meeting, and also gave it as a workshop at SAYMA. I thought I'd have a chance to incorporate feedback before posting it here.
As I was typing this, I thought about the number of times the name Lloyd Lee Wilson has occurred in my spiritual journey, and how many of those encounters have resulted in significant events for me - my first visit to NCYM-C, the gathering of ministers in Woodland, my move towards plain dress. There are other things that I didn't mention in my spiritual journey, like his asking me to share some of my work with the meeting of Ministers, Elders and Overseers at NCYM-C, or asking me to find a good bible verse to kick off the discussion at the morning communion. When I sent him the PDF of the Joseph John Dymond letters, he responded with some words of encouragement. I don't think he reads blogs too often, so I'm going to have to mention this to him next month and thank him.