Thursday, March 06, 2014

Giving Up Ourselves ...

I think I'm finally beginning to get the hang of this "social media" thing.  I've had FaceBook down for a while now, and I've been learning the benefits of Twitter.  And while I've been writing this blog on and off for a while now, it's only recently that I've begun to really regularly read other people's blogs.  (Thank you Feedly!)

One that I've been enjoying is John Shore's.  His tagline is "Christianity With Humanity," although I really enjoyed his earlier tag which was something like, "Trying God's patience since 1958"  (That's what really hooked me when I first came across his posts.)

The other day he posted a lovely and, to me at least, powerful piece about Lent:  "Giving Myself Up For Lent."  He wrote:
"Along with meat and alcohol, this year for Lent I’m going to give up something else. Insofar as I can, I’m going to give up myself.
I’m going to give up my ego. My self-identification. My drive to make something of myself, to be someone, to matter. I’m going to try to give up the whole idea of myself as a separate, independent being in the world—as a person who has any real existence at all outside of the awesomely fearful sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on behalf of all mankind (including, even, me)."
I know that that last line is one that'll give some UUs pause.  After all, not all of us are Christians, and not even all those who identify with Yeshua ben Miriam put much emphasis on "the awesomely fearful sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on behalf of all mankind."  But I'm going to encourage you to put that resistance on hold for a moment.
Whatever you feel about "God," whatever you believe about whether there is or is not some "sacred something," can we agree that there is a dimension that is bigger, greater, larger than our own small ego-self?  Don't think "deity" -- or, at least, don't let such thoughts get in your way right now.  Don't think Grand High Poobah.  Ask yourself if you are the center of all that is, if you are the be-all and end-all of existence.  If you think so, then you really have to ready John's piece and try to let it sink in.  As my colleague Barbara Merritt once put it, "Whether or not we believe in God, we must realize that we ourselves are not God."  (That's in her chapter on "Adversity" in the excellent Skinner House anthology Everyday Spiritual Practice: simple pathways for enriching your life.")
Yet even if you don't think you're God -- or, as I once put it in a sermon, "think you're at least applying for the job" -- John's primary point is worth pondering.  Is your "self-identification," your "drive to make something of [yourself], to be someone, to matter" helping you or hindering you in your efforts to live fully a life of peace and authenticity?  Does your "idea of [yourself] as a separate, independent being in the world" get in the way of your making deep connection with everything else in the world?  Does it make it more or less difficult to really see yourself as "a part" of the "interconnected web of being"?

One of the reasons so many of us find it so difficult to be open to "The Other" (whatever that "Other" might be for us) is because we are so bound by our perception of our own selves and the value (overvalue) we put on them.  As our Christian kin mark the Lenten season, perhaps we, too, can make of it an opportunity to "give up ourselves."

Pax tecum,

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