by Jenny Lumsden
Everyone comes to faith in his or her own time and their own way. For some they are born into it and it always feels like home, for others they grow up with one way being dictated to them but it always feels “off” and so they go in search of other ways. For some the search ends and for others it doesn’t. However, more often than not I think there is intervention of the Divine sort that unexpectedly shows a searching soul the way that speaks to their soul. This is how becoming Quaker was for me. I attended a Meeting while visiting my friend, Sarah, in St. Paul. That day, the quiet, the incredible communal quiet of humble and unadorned people coming together to listen to God and be together while doing such, was such a powerful thing, that I knew that was the way for me. And with that knowledge there was a relief in my spirit, almost like my spiritual life had been holding it’s breath for a very long time waiting, waiting for me to find my way, and when I did it exhaled deeply with relief and joy.
Coming back home I found a nearby Meeting in Des Moines and was an attendee for a decade or so. My attendance was sporadic and I was always too shy to stay for the queries or potlucks afterwards but the blessed environment of purposeful group silence and seeking fed me nonetheless. I did feel like I wanted to know and be known there, however my intensely shy personality could never quite figure out how to insert myself in a way that felt okay. Still, I was content because I knew that I had found my people, my spiritual way and felt fed each time I attended and sat in purposeful silence with others.
Then tragedy found me one sunny, September afternoon when my husband suddenly died and I realized quickly that I had done myself a huge disservice because when I needed my spiritual community desperately, I had no way to reach out to them. No numbers to call, no way to ask for what I needed in that time, no lifeline to the spiritual community that had quietly been there for me for so many years. I felt alone, bereft and isolated and had no one to blame but myself and my shyness.
Several months later, after the initial shock of John’s death had worn off I realized I had also done myself a massive disservice by not being more present and engaged in Meeting so that others could reach out to me as well, so that I could be of service to those I loved when they needed me. This was a one of those understandings that comes strangely from the unexpected and tragic. From there I knew I wanted not only to attend Meeting but I wanted both the spiritual community and the responsibility that comes from immersing oneself in such a community.
As time passed I realized I wanted more than a community, I yearned for a spiritual family. What I didn’t know was how to find that. Way opens and Spirit moves us where we are supposed to be often without our knowledge. So when I moved to Adel, away from my marital home and closer to my family, I had no idea that I would soon be among my spiritual family. Bear Creek Meeting is in Earlham, Iowa a very short drive from Adel and I had been curious about this Meeting that was located so near many of the conservation areas I loved for many years but again shyness had kept me away. But my need, my longing for community and family was soon a much stronger pull than my shyness and after summoning my bravery I made the short drive to Bear Creek my heart pounding the entire way.
I can say now that there was never a time I should have been nervous or scared. There was never a time that I should have felt that I wouldn’t be wanted or welcomed because I knew when I first laid eyes on the building that I belonged there and that intuitive feeling was soon cemented by the open arms of the Bear Creek community.
Maybe it was the age of the building and it’s over 100 years of communal gatherings housed and remembered within its walls, or the rural setting that spoke to my own ancestral ties to the land in Dallas County that spoke so deeply to me that chilly morning, but more than likely it was the warm and inviting spirits of those in attendance that first day when I timidly opened the aged door with it’s original latch and hesitantly entered. It became quite clear to me quickly that this was to be my place, my spiritual home.
I had quite literally happened onto being a Quaker by Divine intervention in showing me my way through my forever friend Sarah, but I found my spiritual home by choice when I purposely spoke up and requested to belong, really belong to Bear Creek. Of all the things I have done since the passing of my late husband, immersing myself into a community, opening myself up to be vulnerable and known by others has been the most brave and deeply fulfilling, and I am forever grateful. My tired, timid and broken self had been led gently by Spirit and finally found my way home.