What Are You Thinking?
I don’t know what has come over me. Last night at the meeting of your Social Justice Council, one observant member noticed that I was yawning. I assured her that I believed my yawning had little to do with exhaustion or boredom and a great deal to do with my body trying to regain its correct balance of oxygen in the blood. See, the past few days have been filled with some real hiking—the kind where you feel the pressure in your ears change. Every so often, something in me believes yet again that this activity will be fun.
I often begin these ascents with all the good humor a day in nature can promise a soul. Then after a few miles of climbing, watching my more practiced, more physically fit, friends amble up a ridge ahead of me, I wonder a little about how long this might take. And a few miles later, the trudging starts to give way to the incredulity shared equally at what I imagine is an emergency joint session called by my circulatory and my musculoskeletal systems. And that is when I am very often struck with the same unanimous question formulated by this session: “What are you thinking?”
But is this anything new? Aren’t we creatures of this particular dilemma, we humans? How often has each of us begun something we believed would be life giving and enriching, only later to feel that we’d taken on much more than we could handle? Or how many of us began something hoping for one outcome, only to find that an entirely different outcome is headed our way? I’m guessing a lot of us. And it is this distance, the span between what we hope for and what occurs, that goes by a special name: belief.
The Unitarian Universalist movement is the heir and inheritor of the teachings of generations who would not ascribe to a set of facts others called belief. Undeterred by potential outcomes, outcomes that had deadly consequences for some, many in our movement chose to believe in ways their surrounding community would not accept and were branded heretics for the actions they took. Today, stating publicly how and whom we believe can lead to many brands and divisions across communities and even families. And right now, the very question of believing one person over another is activating deep wells of pain and uncertainty for many.
The species of belief that tries to prove or disprove something that may or not be is like deciding how fun a hike will or will not be: it’s mostly centered in the mind. But beliefs that can give life and give meaning to each of our lives, that change how we truly see the world, are the kinds of beliefs that may take a foothold behind a caring friend yet require that we set out ourselves to reach for the skies. I try never to lose sight of the sacrifice too many have made in the distance between the question a world asks, “What are you thinking?” and the only answer that every changed very much: “This is what I am doing.”
And may it ever be so,
Rev. T. J.