Of Bonnets and Barnesville*
A couple of weeks before Isabel, her wee one Tabitha and myself were to travel to Ohio for Yearly Meeting, I came across a bit of a conundrum. I was getting the sense that I was to dress Plain; and not only that, but with a black bonnet to match Isabel's, as well. The reason this was difficult was because A) I didn't have said black bonnet and B) I didn't want to seem like a Quaker Jane groupie*, and C) I hadn't worn full plain dress in several months, and wasn't comfortable explaining to strangers that sometimes I was being led to wear a bonnet, cap, dress, kerchief and apron, and other times I was being told to put them aside. I like consistency, and this sort of thing has been greatly exercising my concept of this, to say the least.
As the trip loomed closer, I purchased the fabric and ribbon needed to make a new bonnet, but ran out of time to do so. (It takes at least a week of hand-sewing) This brought about a bit of relief. Perhaps I didn't have to wear a black bonnet after all! Then, a day or so before I was to drive down to meet with my traveling companions, it occurred to me –- quite clearly -- what I was supposed to do. I was to take the black “Amish bonnet” I'd forgotten I already had. The slightly crumpled one hidden in a corner of my closet. The one that had most likely been made for tourists or collectors: cheaply constructed with a gaudy floral arrangement ribbon. I dusted it off, re-shaped the brim, cut out the offending ribbon and sewed in a proper one. Not perfect, but a black bonnet. It would have to do.
After spending the night in Denver, we drove east for two and a half days until we reached Ohio.
(A story that may be related later, if I'm to do so) The week spent camping in the dappled greenery alongside Stillwater meetinghouse was both delightful and challenging, especially in that several things came out of the above leading.
First was the identity confusion. As in, several Friends got Isabel and myself mixed up. I ended up in conversations addressed to her, and vice versa. “Oh! I thought thee was Isabel,” was stated a couple of times. It was a little disorienting, as neither of us think that we resemble one another very much. Yes, we both are small statured, and yes, we both wear glasses and plain dress, but until this trip I didn't understand just how we could be perceived as, well, identical.
It was only when my very own sister remarked on this so-called resemblance that I understood what must be triggering this recognition; for more than superficial outside similarities, there is a true similarity within the both of us, in that we are both in the same Spirit.
But what does that mean? It doesn't mean that we are mental clones of one another, having the same likes or dislikes. It certainly doesn't mean that we both agreed to uphold a certain set of testimonies or are members of the same meeting. What it does mean is that we are both submitting to the same Source, who in turn is re-shaping us into His likeness. In this way then, dressed alike or not, we actually ARE becoming one and the same. As friend Paul once wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Also, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Aside from Identity, another issue surfaced regarding this leading; in that a few people thought that we were dressing alike because it was a “Colorado” or “regional” thing. I was able to explain to several individuals that it was a personal leading, but there might have been a few that came away with the mistaken thought that, like some sort of ultra-conservative sect, we were trying to establish a dress code that everyone in our community should follow. If this were indeed the case, then they would have every right to be suspicious! There is perhaps nothing more grievous to the Spirit than when certain people set up rules and conditions that others must struggle under without assistance. The only Teacher and Guide we need as a community is our Lord, and only He can show us how we are to speak, act, and yes, even how to dress. If some of us are asked to appear seemingly odd or even downright foolish, I have only two things to ask. One, what are the fruits (i.e. spiritual outcomes)? Are they useful or detrimental? Building up or destroying? Second, who am I to judge another's servant? As Jesus said to the disciples regarding John's life's outcome, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.
Despite my initial hesitancy, I'm glad I was obedient to what was placed on my heart and wore what I was supposed to wear. During our time in Barnesville I gave my best to give answer to the Hope that I possess, and am now rejoicing in the knowledge that He can use ordinary things to reach out to myself and others –- even a bonnet.
* Note: Bonnet
refers to an outer head-covering, usually made of silk and buckram, that protects the head from the elements. A cap
is what goes underneath, usually made of linen or cotton.
* Also: Quaker Jane is a website maintained by friend Isabel at http://www.quakerjane.com