Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Web

If I had a lot of money, I don't think I would have to do nearly as much discernment. I don't mean to give the wrong impression. I am very grateful for my job and its steady paycheck. It allows me to pay for rent and food, keep up with my student loans, and give a few bucks to my meetings. But it doesn't go far beyond that. I know that compared to the majority of the world, I am quite wealthy, but I don't always feel like it.

Because of my limited income, when I get a leading to travel, I pretty much have to ask for financial support. I don't like doing it, but I think it is really good for me. It forces me to check in with my support and accountability committee and other Friends, giving me a completely different kind of support. They remind me what my ministry is, then ask how this new piece fits, and they help me to discern whether I really do have a leading. If I had money to travel, I would miss all of that.

Last night, I went to a potluck for young adult Friends, sponsored by some lovely older adult Friends. After we all ate and got caught up, one of the questions we discussed was our first memories of Friends meetings. A surprising number of the people there grew up in Quaker homes, so their first memories involved a lot of First Day school and playing with other children.

I said that my first experiences in meetings were both in times of great stress in my life: the first time I went to Freedom Friends Church was during my first semester finals in law school and the first time I went to University Friends Meeting was when I was studying for the bar exam. I said that I didn't remember a whole lot from those first times, but I really appreciated the silence.

Today, I met as a member of a clearness committee for another young Friend who is discerning her leading to travel in the ministry. It was wonderful to be able to hold her in worship after so many people have been doing the same for me. We met outside and I realized after a while that a spider was making a web across my lap.

Then I remembered how when during one of my first visits to Freedom Friends, I was sitting in the silence and praying about exams. As I prayed, I began to see all of the people I love providing a web of support for me. It was a wonderfully comforting image.

Now I see that web again, but in a different light. All of those people are still providing support for me, but they are also connected because of me. Some of them were connected to each other before and I am strengthening those connections. Others are meeting through me. Others will never meet each other, but I am blessed to have them all as my friends.

Maybe this is why it is so difficult for the rich man to get into heaven. If you don't have any money, you are much more aware that you need other people and that you need God. Over the past year, it has become increasingly clear to me that my ministry is in creating and nurturing community. And as I feel called to create community, having to ask for money every once in a while is a good reminder that I need that community too.


  1. Excellent insights. I really like the web, not only a virtual web, metaphor.

    A question I have asked myself many times is: If "being rich" means that a person has discretionary funds and that is somehow "wrong," then what would happen to those of us who do not have discretionary funds when times come that we do need to ask for financial support from others?

    I have been told by some who have had a good deal of discretionary funds that with all of the requests that do come for "good" purposes require a great deal of discernment.

    This is one of those cases where I recall Parker Palmer's "The Promise of Paradox."

  2. I love this post Ashley. I think I feel called to some sort of community-building as well, but I'm not sure I could define or describe it at the moment.
    Your insight about needing support/community to travel is spot on. I have traveled to a lot of different places and I consider it an incredible blessing because I've almost never had the money to do any traveling. I think I've paid for three or four of these and for the rest I've been supported by friends and community. It can be a difficult thing, asking for help to travel. But it connects me with my community, so they know what I'm up to, it tests my leading, it makes me accountable to those who support me, it encourages me to make a report of what I've been up to. On the whole, a much richer experience than if I was wealthy enough to just go off any old place I wanted, any old time.
    Thanks for this post.

  3. Great post Ashley - and this is to let you know that there is a blog award for you over on my blog at http://stumblingstepping.blogspot.com/ Enjoy!

  4. Thank you all for your comments.

    Tom - It sometimes does help to have rich(er) friends! I don't think that having discretionary funds is necessarily wrong, but I do think that using money usually requires discernment and it seems like more money would probably require more discernment. Whether I would be inclined to do that discernment if I had more discretionary income is another question!

    Aimee - I am so glad to hear that you have had similar experiences. I have found that as much as community can drive me crazy at times, it is really wonderful to have the support of a good community that also holds me accountable.

    Gil - Thank you for the award! It was sweet of you to think of me.

  5. Ashlee, these friends, and you speak my heart.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.