Discernment and growth as a child of the meeting
All of these things are further complicated by the fact that I am not currently attending my monthly meeting, as I'm away at college, and my meeting is not the body of Friends that knows me best (longest, but not deepest). Nonetheless, I remain very close to my home meeting, and identify it as one of my primary spiritual communities.
The conflict between my perspective and that of many weighty Friends in my meeting raises serious questions for me: to what extent am I accountable to my faith community in my personal life? What processes of discernment are appropriate in making important, but private, decisions? In a covenanted community, is there really such a thing as a private decision? If I feel that the body of Friends that knows me best is not my monthly meeting, to whom am I accountable?
I want my life to be well-ordered. I don't want to make distinctions between what is sacred in my life and what is secular, what is private and public. I seek to live ALL of my life with integrity, down to what I wear and what I eat for breakfast, and I believe that corporate discernment is a vital part of that integrity. Anything I would be embarrassed to tell my whole meeting about is probably something I shouldn't be doing.
So how do I hold their concern and allow their measure of Light to move in my life without sacrificing that measure which has been given to me?
I am sincerely, joyously clear about this step. It is a source of pain for me that my meeting is not presently able to share that joy with me.
In the end, what it comes down to for me is that I must always have a deep respect for the Truth as revealed to others. But I do not have to carry it as my own. There is a process of deep listening and discernment that I practice in many aspects of my life- in individual conversations, reading the Bible, listening to ministry- and it translates well to this concern as well.
I hold the speaker in the Light as a unique and beautiful vessel of God.
I listen for the truth in their message.
I take those parts of their ministry that speak to my condition and carry them away with me.
And when I am able to really engage in that process, when I am able to hear with patience and compassion what members of my meeting are speaking to me, what I will hear is love- the deep, sincere, and tender affection that they have for me as their child. And in that love, I will respond back to them:
I am your child, but first and foremost a child of God, and growing in that Spirit. I will carry your concerns in my heart, and do what God reveals to me as the best thing. I am nurtured in your love. But you must also leave room in that love for growth.