Skip to main content

It is Well with My Soul. Part 5 of 5

"Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say: It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Life right now is unimaginably heartbreaking. Children are trained to expect a murderer to walk into their schools (because it happens with increasing regularity), people of color are shot just for living normal life, rights -- reproductive, voting, adopting -- are being stripped away, the earth as we know it is dying, and as it dies, we violently are oppressing those with the least power.

Life right now is utterly amazing. We are questioning all the norms in our society, becoming more inclusive to all types of relationships, changing our words, rejecting "power over," breaking apart assumptions.

Both can be true. Simultaneously.

And in among all of that are the heartbreaks and miracles in individual lives. People are finding love, waiting for the biopsy results, mourning loved ones, getting new jobs, being deported, witnessing a birth - trauma and joy and relationship and disconnection and all of it. Job is always among us, both the Job who is in despair and the Job who has re-found joy.

And we have no assurance of what will happen in the future. What we may be called upon to do.

To keep on going through all of it requires resiliency. And resiliency requires recovery.

A Unitarian Universalist church cannot be a wholly safe space, but it can be a place where we recover, and learn and practice courage. As the saying goes, the safest place for a boat is in a harbor, but that is not what boats are meant for. A Unitarian Universalism for this time in history can be a big tent where we come together to share the wisdom we have found, to learn new ways of being, and to explore meaning itself. An ethic of personal responsibility makes this possible, as we practice making decisions out of our guiding principles rather than our pain.

And it all comes back to love. The kind of love that is freakin' hard, that is a struggle, but that we dedicate and re-dedicate ourselves to, again and again.

What does it mean, for you, when it is well with your soul? 

For me, it doesn't mean that things are great. It doesn't mean an absence of pain. It doesn't mean "comfortable."

For me, it is well with my soul when:

I accept that I am simultaneously enough ... and not enough.

I know I am living out of my guiding principles, imperfectly but intentionally.

I begin with love,
and stay with love,
and come back to love.

The Church Where It's Okay To Ask Questions
Recommitting To An Ethic Of Personal Responsibility Or "Backless Chairs Are Not The Answer"
Part 1 My Love Song To Unitarian Universalism ... And Unitarian Universalists
Part 2 Personal Responsibility Is Non-Transferable
Part 3 That Whole Guiding Principles Thing
Part 4 Pain Is Inevitable
Part 5 It is Well with My Soul


Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to