A Simple Testimony

I like to rant. I like to break down Quak­er soci­ol­o­gy. But often I’m qui­et about sim­ply tes­ti­fy­ing to how Christ’s love com­forts me, guides me, elders me.

So here’s a tes­ti­mo­ny from that “Youth Ministries”:/martink/archives/000555.php retreat a few weeks ago. It was Sev­enth Day I believe and we had been going in con­fer­ence mode for awhile. I need­ed a break. I put my jack­et on and found a sun­ny bench over­look­ing a barn at the bot­tom of a slop­ing dell. I turned to my cur­rent read­ing, Job Scott’s Essays on Sal­va­tion by Christ and read this line:
bq. Men may do many works, which, as to the out­ward act, are good, or which would have been tru­ly so had they been works of the new cre­ation, and wrought of God in Christ, and which yet have no part in the great work of true justification.
The line spoke through me in a way that writ­ing it here won’t explain. I knew that the Source was try­ing to teach me using this paper, through the words and the min­istry of a long-dead Friend. I was being told to be patient and to con­tin­ue return­ing return­ing return­ing to prayer for guid­ance. The Spir­it used these words to remind me to root all action in Christ’s fer­tile soil.
As I turned away from the bench and looked out across the snow-covered lawn in front of me, I under­stood that the con­sul­ta­tion was anoth­er part of the great ongo­ing work of Quak­erism, and the even greater ongo­ing joy of Spir­it break­ing out into the world. All the action plans and agen­das that would come out of this talk meant less to God than my sim­ple obe­di­ence and trust: right here and now and for­ev­er and every­where. I knew it with the cer­tain­ty that came from hav­ing the hand of that great­est of Com­forters rest­ing light­ly on my shoul­der, say­ing “hush, all’s well, this is where you should be.”
The unseen hand lift­ed and over walked a young Friend (who reads this blog, he can tell me whether I’m mak­ing too much of this moment). We had what we Friends call an _Opportunity_, that crazy turn of events when the Spir­it is close enough where we can talk direct­ly of its pres­ence. After a few min­utes, this too passed and two young Friends came stepped out of the old barn and looked up at us. We walked down and end­ed up play­ing four-person vol­ley­ball. “Idle games” in form, per­haps. But an hour or so lat­er one of the play­ers, a High School Friend, tes­ti­fied that our friend­ly game was the day’s most impor­tant in-breaking of the Spir­it, as she had been ter­ror­ized by com­pet­i­tive volleyball-paying as a sopho­more. As we played togeth­er, she felt a warmth and accep­tance in all of our goof­ing off and in the lov­ing com­raderie and joy­ful inep­ti­tude of our serves and volleys.
It’s not about the pro­gram. It’s about the love. It’s about the obe­di­ence to fol­low the Spirits’s prompt out of book, into a con­ver­sa­tion, then onto a makeshift vol­ley­ball court. We nev­er tru­ly know how we are being used. I share this tes­ti­mo­ny not to encour­age vol­ley­ball use but to sing aloud the Spirit’s beau­ti­ful unknow­ing­ness. What joy to know we can shake our­selves of our over-active agen­das and know the Spir­it experimentally!

  • Love­ly, Mar­tin, the post is love­ly! Thanks for this tes­ti­mo­ny. When in doubt, return to the Source of all things. Thank God for that! Amen and amen.
    PS: One hasn’t expe­ri­enced the voice of the Spir­it until one has heard it as Lily! 😉
    PPS: I just noticed your Quak­er Ranter Read­er. Did you make an announce­ment that I missed? Did you qui­et­ly put it up for us to find on our own?

  • Robin Mohr

    Praise God from whom all bless­ings flow.

  • »It’s not about the pro­gram. It’s about the »love. It’s about the obe­di­ence to fol­low the »Spirits’s prompt out of book, into a »con­ver­sa­tion, then onto a makeshift vol­ley­ball »court. We nev­er tru­ly know how we are being »used. I share this tes­ti­mo­ny not to encour­age »vol­ley­ball use but to sing aloud the Spirit’s »beau­ti­ful unknow­ing­ness. What joy to know we »can shake our­selves of our over-active agen­das »and know the Spir­it experimentally!
    A sim­ple Amen! to your sim­ple testimony.
    God bless you and your fam­i­ly. Have a hap­py and blessed Easter.

  • Hi Joe: Maybe I’ll some­day be able to hear God speak through Lily. I sus­pect the good Lord knows that might be too much for me to han­dle at this time; more sea­son­ing is need­ed before I can han­dle that! And yes, I did sort of qui­et­ly rein­tro­duce the Quak­er Ranter Read­er again. I don’t want to make a big deal about it; I fig­ure the peo­ple who might want to find it will find it. Martin

  • John Edmin­ster

    - Job Scott. Lovely!
    A pow­er­ful cri­tique of the “out­ward­ly good act” is to be found in Niko­lai Berdyaev’s _The Des­tiny of Man_ (ca. 1935), esp. p. 165ff. of the Harp­er Torch­books edi­tion, where he rejects all val­u­a­tions of good or bad means and ends as “spir­i­tu­al util­i­tar­i­an­ism,” and argues that good­ness inheres only in the answer of a good con­science toward God [a phrase that, you may recall, George Fox took from I Peter 3:21 to explain Quak­ers’ denial of water bap­tism]: “What is hor­ri­ble is not the lying which is rec­og­nized as a sin, but the lying which is tak­en to be a virtue…In the spir­i­tu­al life there is no dis­tinc­tion and oppo­si­tion between ends and means. The essen­tial thing is of what spir­it a man is… if he is not of God’s spir­it, no lofty aims will improve him and he will always apply bad means, sub­sti­tut­ing them for ends.”
    Friend Mar­tin, this wis­dom is grow­ing on me. Every­where I see oth­ers, and catch myself, doing “good deeds” accord­ing to the world’s pru­den­tial log­ic and not accord­ing to the spir­it of holy obe­di­ence — and with­out the slight­est doubt about our own capac­i­ty to do good. As the world around us grows dark­er, we grow more and more des­per­ate to “stop Bush” or have a notice­able pos­i­tive effect on things else­where, like with­in our Friends’ meet­ings or our fam­i­lies — but fail to turn to God in prayer, say­ing “make me into an instru­ment of Your good­ness,” and trust that God will do that — in God’s own time.
    I appre­ci­ate your con­sis­tent voice of wis­dom and san­i­ty. I par­tic­u­lar­ly liked your sto­ry of the Holy Spir­it lead­ing you to play volleyball.

  • Mar­tin, this post warmed my heart and encour­aged me very much.