Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Our meeting has been struggling with growth. It feels odd to think of growth as a struggle, but I think that's the most apt description.
Every couple of weeks for the past few months we've had a new family visit. Some have stayed, some have not. We've doubled our offerings for children, and we've been talking about investing in improvements to our meeting house to make it more accessible. There is a sense amongst us that our numbers are increasing and we need to grow with those numbers. There is a fear that we will squeeze out new growth if we don't adapt.
There is also a fear that we will expand too far, too fast, and build more than we need. Perhaps our numbers will decrease again in a year or two. Will we then be left with children's groups that are unattended, committments that are no longer necessary, and a space too large for our needs? And would this excess be a hindrance to seeking simplicity?
Three years ago, I was pregnant. I was huge. I was miserable. I was.... struggling with growth. Today I have a healthy two year old and I am training for a triathalon. I am a fraction of the size that I was. Maybe pregnancy is the model of growth that we need. Rather than thinking of growth as an irreversible process, one where we have to guess what our numbers will be a year from now and hope that we don't overestimate, maybe we can think of growth as ebbing and flowing through time.
Was it wasteful for my body to produce the extra fluids and skin that it needed to nurture a pregnancy? Was it wasteful for me to eat those extra calories? I needed them. I grew alongside the body inside of me -- it wasn't that the baby forced my growth, or that my expanding stomach made the baby grow, but rather that the two of us grew in concert with each other. And now, two years later, I no longer need that extra in my body and (miraculously) it has dissipated. It was there when I needed it, and I released it when it had served its purpose.
It would be ridiculous for me, as a pregnant woman, to refuse to change my diet on the grounds that I wouldn't need the extra calories in a year. If I did that, my pregnancy would not be a healthy one. And I could say, "well, see, that's a sign that I wasn't meant to grow," but that would be absurd. Built within my body is that capacity to change -- to change shape, to change diet, to change the very consistency of my muscle fibers, to adapt to new life inside of me. I was meant to grow new life, but I am also required to adapt to new needs in order to nurture it. Likewise, our meeting needs to respond to changing needs. Maybe we won't have as many children in a year's time, but that is no reason not to nurture the children we do have now.
I'd like another child someday. And so I am gently keeping my body prepared. I take vitamins, I eat well, and I tend to my health. There's no need for me to grow that huge belly right now :), but there is a need for me to create the framework of good health so that the belly will grow when the time is right and so that I can recover quickly after another birth. Can our meeting do the same? What would it mean for us to create the framework of spiritual health, so that we are able to grow when the time is right and recover when we need to?
I think it would mean that we fully nourish those who are in our presence. We have some growth to do before we are fully nurturing our entire community. That would be a good place to start -- making sure both the young and the old are able to worship comfortably with us. And then maybe we could leave a little but of extra space, plan for a little more than we need, so that there is room for guests who stop by. As we grow, that "little bit extra" will push our boundaries in a steady progression so that we are always exactly the size we need to be. Healthy. Simple. Supportive of new life.
I hope that we are not choking off growth for fear that it may not be permanent, but rather fertilizing it so that it is strong and healthy for as long as we are blessed to have it.