Of all our themes this year, Embracing Possibility is arguably most central to our faith. It has distinguished Unitarian Universalists from the start. Historically, when others saw depravity and sin at the core of human identity, we saw potential. When many were preaching that this world was fallen, we fell in love with the possibility of heaven on earth. Theologically, you might say we were the people who believed that God hadn’t given up on us and so we shouldn’t give up on each other or this world. Psychologically, it’s led to us being a people of “why not?” Why not give people another chance? Why not fight what seems a losing battle? Why not risk a little failure?
Compassion calls us to change things! It’s not just about comforting others; it’s about our comfort getting disturbed. It’s about connecting with another’s pain and struggle so deeply that we can’t rest until they rest. When we feel compassion – real compassion – we don’t just understand another’s pain, we want it to stop. And then we do what’s needed to make it stop.
Stories don’t just embellish our lives; they make and even dictate our lives. This might be the most important reminder of this month. Indeed, who of us hasn’t felt controlled by a story? Stuck in a story? Hopeless about the way our story will end up? Simply put, our stories often write us as much as we write them.
It’s become popular in our society to talk about spiritual journeys as a process of living into your full or true self, of letting the authentic seed inside you unfold. We UU’s agree. We even enshrined it in our principles that celebrate each of our unique seeds (inherent worth) and unique journeys (a free and responsible search).
There’s a natural, and important, go-getter quality to this month. After all, huge payoffs come when we keep our commitments. Maintaining loyalty to healthy habits not only lengthens our lives but enriches them. Faithfully following through on our relationship commitments allows us to fully realize ourselves as the interdependent creatures we are, as well as increases just about every metric of happiness, meaning and success out there. And keeping the promises we make to ourselves ultimately gives us the strength, groundedness and self-confidence needed to follow through on all those promises we make to those around us.
We human beings run away from community not just because others let us down, but also because we doubt that others won’t step up when we let them down. Beloved community stays at arm’s length not just because it is hard to build, but also because we don’t trust that it will be there for us.
It’s all one big reminder that the work of beloved community is bigger than we usually imagine. It’s not just about building a better world; it’s also about building up each other’s faith. We are in a battle not just against the division between us, but also the doubt within us.
What we really need to hear about beloved community is not just that we can create it, but that we can count on it.
This month, may we make sure we all bless each other with both of those messages.
Imagination isn’t just a force that drives us forward toward a more perfect future, it also pulls the sacred into our impoverished present. Imagination is what transforms trees from potential firewood into wise friends. Imagination is what moves us from lording over the natural word to seeing ourselves as part of it. It gives the world a soul. And not just the natural world, but the ordinary world too. Through the lens of imagination, we perceive the common as precious, even miraculous. The laughter of our children becomes the sound of angels. Sunshine on our face becomes a greater treasure than gold. Our “everyday” lives are understood as amazing adventures and inexplicably lucky gifts.
So friends, stillness…allows us to perceive that which is truly precious. And in doing so, it calls us back to our humanity.
When we pause and find that sacred point of balance, that which is precious in life lights up as if in neon. The blur that usually dominates our attention fades to gray and we are able to notice that which truly deserves our focus. Our care. Our commitment. Our love.
Oh how we want to escape our pain. Worry, loss, death, exhaustion, anxiety, Covid claustrophobia, political instability, the unraveling of our democracy, racial harm. It’s all overwhelming. We want to stitch up our protective coverings as soon as we can so our exposed and tender nerves can rest. We want the pain behind us as soon as possible.
But what if the work is to travel toward it? What if proximity to pain not distance from it is the real route to healing?
Listening helps us find our way. The listening of therapists allows us to navigate our way through
life. We turn to prayer to hear God’s guidance. We listen to experts so we can get ahead. Like a
flashlight that leads us through the darkness, listening helps us keep on course.