Does anyone else feel like we need more faith these days? The past few months have been a bountiful harvest of uncertainty, a mighty river of concerns, worries, and stresses. We live in a pandemic, in a Presidential election year, which means it’s also a leap year, and a time when it seems like all of our decisions will likely have greater consequences. We’re also in the midst of one of the largest civil rights and social justice movements in US history.
Someone recently called it a liquid moment, a time when things haven’t quite taken shape yet. A time when new paths can be cleared, new trails blazed. Others are saying that it feels like we’re building an airplane–while riding in it, doing things we’ve never done before or old behaviors in new ways. A slow motion catastrophe is often laden with opportunity.
As a Unitarian Universalist pastor, I practice comforting and encouraging people of all faiths, including those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious, agnostic, and/or atheist. For many of these folks, we look for inspiration in lots of places, including science, as well as religious traditions. Brené Brown, for example, is a good, thought-provoking reference, best known for her study of shame and vulnerability.
She defines faith as a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty. I know some are more comfortable with uncertainty than others. Some like to plan out everything, while others prefer to play it by ear. If you have no faith and are frightened by uncertainty, you’re probably bent out of shape this summer.
Hang in there! We’ll get through this! I am confident we will, even though I can’t see the future. But spirituality is something that definitely helps. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives. Brown defines spirituality as recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us. Some call that power, God. Others are comfortable with it being a mystery. But our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.
In fact, there is nothing more courageous than compassion. Think of the stories of people jumping into danger or taking a bullet to keep it from harming someone else. We’re actually wired that way, biologically. You could even say, we’re created in the image of God, right down to our cells and synapses. That’s more than something to believe or have faith in–it’s something to recognize and celebrate!
Continuing that connection of empathy, and looking deep within ourselves, passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you! What enlivens you or makes you come alive? What are you passionate about? That is what we should be pursuing and focusing on.
When you’re excited about something, you’re enthused! That word, enthusiasm, actually comes from the same root as theology, the study of God. You might say, that’s how God works through us–when we’re passionate about something that we love. If you do what you love professionally, you’ll never work a day in your life. Another way of putting it is to follow your bliss. Take the path that excites you the most, the path of most enjoyment. Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.
The exciting part of being in a liquid moment and having faith is getting to set things into motion before they’re set into place. We can help nudge our community towards more just, equitable, and inclusive living. We can help push our policies toward more fair distribution of power and sharing of resources.
And, you know what? It’s a lot easier to do that work at the local level. Look down your block or your street, and ask yourself, what would you like your neighborhood to look like in 3-5 years? What are you willing to do to make it so? Better yet, what would you love to do to make your neighborhood a better place?
If all of us had the faith to pursue what we’re passionate about, what kind of world would that be? Imagine it: all of us doing what we love in compassion and connection. What a wonderful world that would be! Some might call it a beloved community, others would say it’s the kingdom of God. Whatever you want to call it, I’m sure it would be just as sweet. That’s worth working for, and committing our time and talents and money. Verily I say, that puts our faith into action.
(This is the essay, as submitted to the Delaware Gazette on Wednesday, July 22nd, where it was published on Friday, July 24th.)