Monthly Archives: March 2017

And the First shall be Last

Joys and Sorrows

It was a family Sunday last week and the sanctuary at 9am was full of families.  My children were off for the weekend camping with their Dad and as I made my way to worship, a parent asked if I would accompany their child to worship so they could go teach our spirit play children who were gathering for class downstairs.  “Yes”, I said.  And “Yes”, said my heart.  This child had been in my spirit play class a few years ago and we talked about that and about how I looked very familiar to him.  We sat together and when KP told us a story about the first being last, my friend joined the crowd and afterwards made his way to class.  I sat in the warmth of community.  This is the community that I want at Unity and I had just been able to participate in it’s creation.  So many layers of yes.

I went downstairs myself pondering and wondering about the lesson, the second in our life cycle series.  I was curious and excited because one of our teachers had played around with the story and was presenting it creatively.  I smiled to hear that the story went well.  I listened in a different way.

The moment of class that stuck with me however was the circle time at the beginning.  We always sing and greet one another and then we go around the circle to share our joys and sorrows.  The storyteller this week decided to begin in the opposite direction of our usual flow.  Right away our insightful children reminded her that we usually go the other direction.  I know one of them, at least, had picked her seat hoping to go first.  The storyteller explained that this time we would go this direction and next time we could go the other direction.  Since I had just heard KP’s story, I observed this moment closely.  There was some delight on the part of the children who unexpectedly got to share first.  There was some disappointment and protest from those who thought they had secured the first spot, but ended up being the last to share.

I identify with both positions.  While I hardly ever position myself hoping to be first, sometimes when I have been very excited to lead and share, I too have felt the disappointment of feeling passed over.  The practice for me when this happens is to try to stay out of my story about what it means to meet a reality different from my expectations and to trust that everything is ok, no matter when my turn comes.  This has taken some practice.  Most of the time I can hear the voice in me grumbling about how my insight was so wonderful and it wasn’t honored in the way I wanted.  I hear it grumble in anger about how it isn’t fair that I didn’t get my way.  And I let it go.  This is easier on days where I am rested, secure and calm.  It is much harder when I’m tired, hungry or cold.  It takes practice to let go.  I want to practice this skill because those voices block out my ability to listen to whoever is going first.  The grumbles remove me from the present moment.  They definitely aren’t supporting me in living my life in integrity, service and joy.  And so I practice gracefully letting go so I can stay here inside what’s happening and witness the life that is always emerging.

While I frequently find myself going last, I occasionally find myself first in an unexpected way.  This can feel just as disorienting as its opposite.  I have sometimes felt put on the spot or unsure when I have been invited into the first place.  The practice for me when this happens is to try to stay out of my story  about what people expect of me when I’m first and to trust that everything is ok, even if I’m surprised.  This takes even more practice.  I far more often get swept away by these voices who push at me and tell me that I need to be quick and wise and step up.  They tell me that others are watching and listening and so this better be good.  I hear these stories and I try to let them go.  On good days I can do it, on challenging days, sometimes not.  I have learned to take a breath and take extra time when I’m suddenly first.  I give myself permission to pass.  I want to let go of the voice because, again, it blocks out my ability to be present in this moment with all it’s invitation and openness.  I practice gracefully letting go.

I am playing with this idea lately about the relationship between the world as it is and my response to it.  I am striving for that place of non-attachment, or active indifference which finds center and opens to life unfolding as it is.  It is an attitude that attempts to remain in the present moment no matter what that moment offers.  How can I rest in being primarily and be first or last secondly?  How can I rest in being primarily and be present to what is surprising or unexpected?  How can I be grounded and joyful, first, last and everywhere in between?  I’ll keep practicing.  When I do it gets easier and I build the trust that I am ok in every moment and it’s ok to be really present here all the time.

My adopted family

The last few weeks in spirit play we have been playing with the idea of family (if you haven’t brought in your family photo yet, there’s still one more week).  What makes a family?  How are families the same and different than each other.  How is church a family of families?

This week’s lesson focused on adoption.  We read a story about a boy and his adopted family as they expected to adopt a new baby into the family.  The kids were antsy and eager to move and play.  I was the door teacher and eager to sit and be still and sink into witnessing our classroom.  It was a good day of interaction with children, a visiting family and lots of energy and laughter.  I had come from the service where Rob had talked about sin and Christian rituals re-imagined and used powerfully with Unitarians.  We also sang, “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child” which moved around in me and stirred things up.

Unity is my adopted church.  I was raised Lutheran and am grateful for the community in which I grew and learned.  It was also a place that did not seem to nourish my desire to seek a deep relationship with the Holy.  I was thrilled to study religion in college and wrestle with all that I had been given.  For a long time I found no nourishment in Christian spaces and when I desired to be a part of a worshiping community, I first adopted the Quakers and then I adopted you.  It has been a joy to be among fellow seekers where the path to our own answers is honored and informed by the gathered community.

These past few years have brought an unexpected twist to that journey.  To use the metaphor, my birth parents found me and we have been re-establishing a relationship.  Suddenly what I had felt lost feels profoundly found.  My original belonging to Jesus has been transformed and is meeting me now, exactly as and where I am.  Sometimes, though, it does feel like I live in two worlds a belonging both to my birth family and my adopted family.  Both in Christian and Unitarian spaces I can feel like a motherless child.

This is one of the reasons I show up each Sunday to be with your children.  I want them to feel that our community is their home, that they are loved here.  I want them to know by the attentiveness of their teachers that someone other than their parents see and love them.  That we are all family.  I want our belonging to each other to help us feel less alone and more willing to explore in the safety of our church home.

I have adopted Unity because it offers me the possibility of belonging to something honest, true and resonant for me.  I adopt Unity because I want to offer that belonging to others in our community.  I want our home to be hospitable and mutually inviting.  If you have come from some other place, why have you adopted this community?  If Unity is your birth family, why do you choose to stay?  Our freedom to come and go creates an authenticity in our community that I haven’t experienced in other congregations.

I believe our freedom in the classroom to sit where is comfortable, to pass if we need to, to play alone or with friends, creates a different version of authenticity that helps our children practice their choice making and gives them skills that all seeker’s need:  a sense of play and safety, a sense of courage and risk taking, the ability to try on new things, the practice of allowing for difference and the honoring of difference.

My hope for us is that we journey together in our exploration, that we adopt each other and care for each other in turn, that we follow our hearts desire and reach out to each other for support.  I hope that if and when we feel like a motherless child, that all our adopted family are there to welcome us home.