I was away last week at a year-end intensive for seminary. I attend One Spirit Interfaith Seminary and in addition to monthly sessions in New York City, we are required to attend an intensive session each year. Our time there is spent on several things, some academic, some purely fun and many introspective and spiritual. The setting is perfect, a Catholic retreat center on the Hudson river complete with rolling hills, an abundance of birds, and solitary places to sit and commune with god. I can honestly say I had moments when the awe that inspires me was in full bloom. And I had moments of gratitude so deep they brought me to my knees.
One such moment came while thinking about Wellspring, my personal springboard to this new life path. It was through my experience in the Wellspring Program that I finally understood the deep spiritual origins of our denomination. That’s when my future became clear. I felt called and knew that I could in fact live in a faith so dear to me and openly and honestly embrace my soul at the same time. That had always seemed the biggest challenge to me.
Then I wondered if other UUs had similar challenges. One of my deans told me I have a classic Jonah Complex, in that I seem to “run from God.” When I read the story of Jonah, you know the one about the big fish, I can see that’s she’s right. Jonah hears God’s voice and not only ignores it but runs the other way and boards a ship headed in the direction opposite to God’s request. I think I’ve done that my whole life. And when you think about it, God’s request is really so simple, take this message to the people of Nineveh and help them find a new way to live in peace.
But it’s easy for UUs to run from God, we are not typically a bunch that gets called. Many UUs have had rough experiences with traditional God centered religions so we are naturally a wary bunch. We don’t usually hear voices or find burning bushes. Or do we?
UUs live fiercely in this world and steer clear of looking for heavenly solutions. We work tirelessly to improve the world we live in and if we are willing to admit it, we take the commandments very seriously. Our own Rev. Dick Gilbert wrote The Prophetic Imperative that implored us to recognize our obligation to address the injustice in this world with vigor. But aside from the wise influence of our prophets, what voice do we hear when we embrace and mend this world? And can we call this voice God?
For me this voice is deep within, it is the core of who I am. It speaks only the truth and challenges me to see the world through the eyes of our most holy teachers, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, and Krishna. And the voice reminds me that God looks back at me through the eyes of our most vulnerable. The voice encourages me to pay attention equally to the sorrow of humankind and to the dancing fireflies in my yard. After many years of tending, this voice is my constant companion. This voice doesn’t chatter at me like the proverbial monkey mind; it is loudest when I am still.
There are some faith traditions that would call this the voice of God. And as such, can Unitarian Universalists listen and heed this call? Can we dispense with our debates over whether we are agnostic, or theist? Can we stop running from the Divine? Can we agree to kneel in the presence of this world and honor our callings? Can we be still and know that we are God?