What Daniel uncovered is instructive for those of us connected to congregational life. Community can do a lot to help us live the lives we want to live, and build the world we dream about, but that is a heck of a lot different from questing towards perfection.
Ultimately, it's not that spiritual people never have a bad day or say something mean, or that spiritual communities never have to wrestle with bad behavior or harmful policies. Our strength is not in our infallibility but instead in our resiliency, the fitness to return to our best, our truest natures.
Sometimes I fear we talk about Beloved Community as some ideal, conflict-free end place we will reach when we get rid of all our disagreements and differences. Instead, I think we live into Beloved Community when we engage our differences actively. Exercising our muscles for complexity or contradiction helps us build the stamina to stay together, cultivating the practices to sustain us and our communities.
On a personal level, I can be pretty judgmental. I frequently catch myself not being as open-hearted or good-willed or generous as I could be. There's lots of reasons why but ultimately I am convinced this way of being does not serve me. While I can deploy it easily, my critical side is not my best.
Sure, I dream of days when I never have a judgmental thought or feel like that bone is no longer in my body, but if I'm honest, I remember that my work is not to rid myself of those things (or pretend they aren't there). Instead, I notice them, I learn more about them, set intentions to act differently, and day by day they become less and less my default. It's not that I have to be perfect, I just have to be practicing.
Ultimately, practice doesn't make perfect, it makes practiced.
Like any fitness - riding a bike, playing the piano, or listening wholeheartededly - we get better when we cultivate and practice the attitudes and behaviors that reflect our values. I am better at being love when I practice the action of love.
I believe that for those of us who seek to return to our true nature of love, it takes practice. That through the course of our lives, if we have the intention, we can move towards more of us being in service to our best than not. Through practice we build our resiliency to come back to our center, to remember our connection to each other, or to find the ground that allows us to remember our purpose.
What are you practicing?
On Saturday, November 15th, Meck Groot and I will be gathered with others in Weston for "Love as Practice." If you seek to inspire a culture of love within your congregation or community and your personal life, join us. It will be a soulful sessions of question-asking and meaning-making about the widespread messages of love in our UU landscape.