Monday, February 01, 2016

Resistance in the Home

This is the text of the reflection I offered to the community of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist on Sunday, January 31st, 2016.  As always, you can listen to the podcast.

There were a lot of folks from here who were at the Open House of the Islamic Society yesterday.  [How many of you were there?]  One of the things we were told was that if a Muslim lives her or his daily life with an awareness of Allah, then everything they do is a form of worship.  And maybe the place we can see this best is in the family.  When children honor their parents, parents care for and nurture their children, and spouses love and support one another, then the various ways they do these things become forms of worship.

Now ... I don't know about you, but my home doesn't always seem like a house of worship.  Maybe yours doesn't either -- the home you're in now or the home you grew up in.  Maybe it seems a little more like Moishe's from our story earlier:  too many things getting underfoot and not enough time or space to breathe.  [Here is a link to one version of that story.]

And maybe we're a little bit like Moishe, ourselves.  I know that I sometimes think -- more often than I'd care to admit, actually (although I guess I just did) -- I sometimes think the things that are getting in the way, the things that are resisting me on my path to a happy life, are "out there."  The biggest source of my greatest resistance can be found in the external realities of my life, and that if I could only get those things to change, I would be fine. 

I think a lot of us might have been feeling like that a couple of weeks ago when the PowerBall jackpot was so high -- think of how our lives could have been improved if we'd have won!  But on a pretty regular basis we think like this too -- if only my older (or younger) sister or brother wasn't being such a pain in the neck; if only my parents would let me play that video game that all of my friends are playing; or if only the kids would clean their rooms, or my spouse would remember to put dirty dishes in the sink, or my grown kids would stop treating me like I'm the child now ...  The list could go on and on. 

This kind of thinking makes sense, although it's absolutely, completely, and totally wrong.  This life ... right now ... exactly as it is in this moment ... is the only life we have, and the only life we can be happy in because right now ... this moment ... is the only thing that's real. That's what the Rabbi's little game was all about -- getting Moishe to realize that he didn't have to change anything about how his life was in order to be happy.  The life he returns to after getting all of those animals out of his house was exactly the same life he'd been complaining about as too stressful, but now he realized just how much peace there was in it.  Absolutely nothing about the external realities of his life had changed ... but he had.

He had changed, which means that the resistance to his living a happy life wasn't really "out there" the way he -- and we, all too often -- thought it was.  The resistance is "in here."  He -- we -- are the source of our own greatest resistance.

So what do we do about that?  If we are the source of the greatest resistance in our lives, what are we going to do about it?  Well ... I am going to ask for a volunteer.  Thanks.  I'd like you to put your arms straight down at your sides.  Now ... I'm going to hold them here where they are and you're going to push against me as hard as you can.  You're going to resist having your arms at your side by trying as hard as you can to raise them up.  Okay?  Ready?  Go.

Didn't get you too far, did it?  Okay, now we're going to do that again, only at a certain point I'm going to let go, and when I do I want you to stop trying to raise your arms.  Got it?  Okay.  Go.
What happened?  Your arms rose up on their own, right?  You didn't have to do anything, they just sort of floated up.  When we stop resisting, when we let go of our resistance, we just naturally rise up.  Things get lighter.  Easier. More spacious.

When I was younger one of my favorite books was by Richard Bach, the author of Johnathan Livingston Seagull(It still is one of my favorites, actually.). The book is called Illusions:  adventures of a reluctant messiah.  At the beginning of the book there is a parable.  [So as not to engage in copyright infringement, here is a link to the text.]

"The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go."  "The river delights to lift us free."  Love delights to lift us free ... Life delights to lift us free ... use whatever metaphor you like.  The point will be the same.  Our Unitarian Universalist faith affirms that Life -- this life, my life and your life, Life itself -- is not ultimately meaningless.  And our faith affirms also that there are mysteries and wonders that transcend what reason alone can explain away.  Our Universalist ancestors called these transcending mysteries and wonders, "Love."  We could call them "LIfe," or "the River," but whatever you decide to call it I am here this morning to remind us of what we all once knew -- that our true work is the voyage, the adventure, that we can only take when we let go of the rocks to which we cling, when we stop resisting the current of Life, of Love, and allow it to lift us free.

It's not always easy, of course, nor is it guaranteed to seem successful at first.  I think my favorite part of that parable is when the hero is "tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks" just as he had been warned he would be.  Yet he kept trying, kept believing, kept having faith, and so should we. 

Our lives with our families -- whichever of the myriad forms your family might take -- might be where we'll see most clearly how often we forget that we, ourselves, are the source of the greatest resistance in our lives because it is so easy to blame it on one of the others. Yet when we remember where the resistance really lies, then (with practice) we can remember to let go, to stop resisting, and we will find that our arms are not the only things that rise on their own.  "The river delights to lift us free ..."  Perhaps we should stop resisting and let it.

Pax tecum,


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1 comment:

Cathy Finn-Derecki said...

I completely agree -- if my kids were not a handful, if making a living were not so difficult, if I could afford a better car, if other people were not so (fill in the blank), then what would be the point of living?