Several years ago, Joan and I were in Frostburg, Maryland, attending the sessions of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. For those of you not accustomed to our Quaker jargon, a yearly meeting is a collection or assemblage of local or monthly meetings, usually in the same geographical area, who gather once a year to discuss and decide their shared ministries and concerns. Just so you know, the definition of a Quaker is someone who won’t attend their own yearly meeting, but will drive 450 miles to attend someone else’s.

We had a free afternoon and after consulting a map, I discovered we were only 50 miles from Fallingwater, what some believe to be the most beautiful home ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, so off we went to Fallingwater. The house was designed in 1935 for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, the owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh, who owned property along the Bear Run River in a remote area of western Pennsylvania. For several years, the Kaufmanns had retreated to the waterfall to camp, before hiring Wright to build them a vacation home. When they first saw the blueprints Wright had drawn, they were upset. They had asked him to place the home downstream of the waterfalls, so they could view the water, but the blueprints had the home placed in the midst of the waterfall, integrated among the water, the boulders, and the century-old trees.

When the Kaufmanns expressed their disappointment with his design, Wright told them, “I want you to live with the waterfall, not just to look at it, but for it to become an integral part of your lives.” And of course, if you’ve been to Fallingwater, or even seen a picture of it, you know its beauty is based on its integration, the house and nature are woven seamlessly together, each one complementing the other, in a beautiful synthesis of design. Wright later said, when interviewed about the house, that “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it.”

We’ve been talking about Quaker qualities, re-framing our Quaker testimonies. We’ve discussed equality as democratic discernment, peace as consistent compassion, simplicity as generosity, and today I want to speak about integrity as integration, by which I mean all the elements of our lives fitting seamlessly together until they become an example of unified beauty. The Quaker testimony of integrity is not just about telling the truth. Our testimony of integrity is about living a life of integration, so that there is no daylight between what we say and believe and do. They are all of the same piece.

Think of our disappointment when someone regularly proclaims their devotion to Jesus, then treats their fellow humans hatefully. The disconnect we experience in that moment is due to their lack of integration. There is a chasm between what they say and how they act. We recognize this disconnect and find it troubling, even jarring.

Isn’t this what appalls us about the prevalence of Christian Nationalism in our nation today? Christianity is a global movement, a universal philosophy transcending borders and boundaries, embracing the world, but in Christian Nationalism becomes a regional religion confined to and controlled by a political party or ruling class. We are rightly troubled by that, seeing a disconnect between the principles of Jesus and the conduct of his followers. We recognize this lack of integration, which at its heart is a lack of integrity.

If we are mindful and self-aware, we recognize in our own lives those moments and places of disconnection. Paul spoke about this in his letter to the Roman community, when he wrote, “I don’t understand my own actions. I do not do what I want; I do the very thing I hate.” We all know that feeling, don’t we? We all experience this disconnection, this lack of integration, and are troubled by it, especially when we notice it in ourselves.

Oh, I noticed this lack of integration in myself this week. For years now, Joan and I have had a third car, which we loan out to friends and family who need it. It has nearly 200,000 miles on it and I fear is near to giving up the ghost, so when I saw an advertisement for a 2007 Lincoln Town Car at Andy Mohr Nissan with only 80,000 miles on it, I thought, “That’s the car for me.” So I went and drove it. Beautiful car. One owner, no smoker, but when we sat in it, I immediately felt 110 years old and decided not to buy it.

Unfortunately, I’d already gotten to know the used car salesman, a nice young man named Tony. I’d spoken on the phone several times with him. He’d told me about his parents and fiance and how he was saving money for college so he could become a doctor and help poor people. I mean, this was just a great kid. So when I decided not to buy the car, I waited until he went to the bathroom, then got out of there as quickly as I could, rather than telling Tony I was no longer interested in the car. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

You hear some people say that young people today don’t want to work, but that doesn’t include Tony, because he called me every day for the next three days.

“Hello, Mr. Gulley. How are you today? How is Mrs. Gulley?”

“Tony, please call me Phil. Joan and I are fine, thank you.”

“Oh, no, that wouldn’t be right. I was just calling to let you know the car is still available, and I’d be happy to deliver it to your house if it’s hard for you and Mrs. Gulley to get out.” Tony was so nice that the third time he called I invited him and his fiance to our house for Easter dinner.

Tony was so nice that the third time he called I invited him and his fiance to our house for Easter dinner.

Joan said, “You have to tell him we don’t want that car.”

“But he wants to be a doctor and help poor people,” I told her.

“That is not our responsibility,” she said.

I love my wife, but she can be ruthless.

But I knew she was right, that I had to tell Tony the truth.

Tony phoned the next day. We chatted a bit then he asked me if I was still interested in the car. He’d been saving it for me. Other people had wanted it. He’d told them no.

“Tony, there’s something you need to be aware of,” I said. “I was going to buy that car for an older person,” because technically speaking, I was older than I had been the day I drove it, “and they’ve told me they no longer want it,” which is true, I no longer wanted it. I said, “They’ve even been told they should stop driving,” which is also true, Joan has told me that several times in the past year.

So here I am, a minister of the gospel of Jesus, a responsibility I take seriously, who shaded the truth rather than speak it. I did this to spare Tony, because I forgot that it is better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.

We live with this need always, Friends, to weave our lives into a seamless garment, when what we say and believe and do are one and the same no matter what, to integrate our lives, so what we love is what we do, so what we believe becomes our first impulse and not our eventual one. Not just living near the truth, within viewing distance of it, but living in it and being of it.