I recently was blessed to have a visit from a dear friend and Quaker minister. Throughout the course of the evening, we enjoyed good conversation, a delicious dinner, and a nice walk. At the end of our walk, we visited my neighbor who was just returning home. During our conversation with this neighbor, my friend shared some ways in which he has chosen to live more simply and the blessings and freedom it has afforded him. My neighbor still cannot wrap his mind around how this friend lives yet I sense a slight awe from him concerning my friend living so radically simple.
I am currently reading a book called Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of our Hearts by Lael Arrington. Arrington pointedly calls out our various ways of escape in this 21st century American life. She challenges us to really embrace the life we are given on this earth and to change our vision so that we can truly live in God’s kingdom here on earth, right now.
Both my friend’s visit and this book remind me of Ohio Yearly Meeting’s (Conservative) 7th Query, “Do we observe simplicity in our manner of living, sincerity in speech, and modesty in apparel? Do we guard against involving ourselves in temporal affairs to the hindrance of spiritual growth? Are we just in our dealings and careful to fulfill our promises? Do we seek to make our Christian faith a part of our daily work?" When answering queries, I find it helps me answer more deeply and more fully when I ask how I am doing what is being considered instead of simple yes/no answers. The question that really resonates with me this morning and ties everything together is “Do we guard against involving ourselves in temporal affairs to the hindrance of spiritual growth?” Am I on my phone or computer (or watching TV) to the hindrance of my being able to be sensitive to how the Spirit is moving in my life. Am I listening and being obedient to his prompting to call a friend or family member or spend time in prayer or worship or am I brushing Him off to watch one more episode?
I grew up in Stillwater Meeting where they have the practice of dividing up families and individuals into small groups. Each small group is assigned a query to answer and then brings that answer before the whole Meeting during Business Meeting. During this time, any changes and/or additions may be made before the Meeting approves the answer and it is sent to Quarterly Meeting. (Quarterly Meeting receives each Meetings’ answers, [usually about 4 but it varies as to how many Meetings make up a Quarterly Meeting], summarizes them into one answer and then sends that answer to the Yearly Meeting. The Yearly Meeting receives each Quarterly Meeting’s answer [there are 3 Quarterly Meetings] and summarizes those answers into one answer.) Anyways, as a child and teenager, I remember there being lots of discussion about the queries and we would occasionally look up the definitions of words within the queries in order to gain a better sense of what was being asked of us.
In the above question, temporal refers to worldly or secular and affairs refers to events or sequences of events. Spiritual refers to both the human spirit or soul as well as religion or religious belief. Growth refers to the process of increasing in size. So how do I guard against involving myself in world events to hindrance of increasing my spirit? One way I have done this is to put a time limit on my phone for social media apps. Another way is that I generally try to limit my Netflix time to one episode during supper. A third way is that I got rid of cable over a year ago as it became too expensive for me and it was consuming more of my time than I wanted it to.
Quakers have traditionally observed simplicity in their manner of living and modesty in apparel although this looks different for each individual and family. For some, this does preclude technology such as owning a computer but for most this does not. It is perhaps more evident in the lack of nick-knacks and the most fashionable and trendy items one would expect in homes. Some Quakers feel lead to dress plainly, so much so that they get confused with the Amish, and others choose to dress simply, tending to look more like Mennonites, while others choose to dress modestly and simply by buying clothing at thrift stores and not keeping up with trends and labels. The other aspects of the remainder of the query serve as hallmarks of how Quakers seek to follow Christ. Plainness and simplicity are not shallow images maintained to give a “holier than thou” air but have a deep commitment to follow Christ as He leads in all things, a way of “being in the world but not of the world” (1 John 2:15-17).
So, I am continually reminded to follow Christ in all that I do and am, each moment of every day. I desire to continue to take small steps to live more fully in the Kingdom of Heaven right here, right now. It takes conscious effort to say “no” to some things and “yes” to other things. This way of living takes a sensitivity to the Spirit that brings a transformation in my being - physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual.
Go back and read the 7th Query again. How would you answer each question? How is the Lord convicting you to more fully follow Him today?