“Love reaches out” is the theme for this year’s General Assembly. If you don’t know already, this is the big annual gathering of UU’s from across the country. This year it will take place in Providence, RI. Some of our folks who are going have already left, with our banner!
If you have never gone before, you might consider making the trip next year. It is always the fourth week of June and next year it will be in Portland, Oregon. This year the 5,000 or so folks who will gather for a long weekend of business, worship, fellowship, study, and public witness, will do it all around the theme of “love reaches out”.
It makes sense that this is the theme. It is time for us to become more outward facing. It is time for us to take this show on the road. Reaching out is not just about creating and reciting an “elevator” speech, a 1-2 minute description of what UUism is. It is not about saving the none’s (those that choose “no religious affiliation” on forms we all have to fill out, all the time) It is not about saving them from their Sunday golf games or beach outings and dragging them into a liberal religious institution and showing them how different we are.
Reaching out is about taking the power of love seriously, living our faith in a big courageous new way, taking what some have considered to be private and going public.
It is about spreading the love. It is about answering indifference and isolation and fear with the power of love.
I don’t need to tell you all the reasons why this ole world needs more love.
I can’t imagine you need convincing of that.
Perhaps you do need some convincing that it is time to make this faith more than about an hour or two on Sunday where you listen, or a minute or two when you answer your neighbor’s question about where you go to church, or why you bring your children here and not there. It is time to step into reaching out full time, and with love and power, not just saying who we are, but really being what the world needs us all to be.
I was talking with a friend the other day who is moving into that stage in a relationship with a potential significant other where the “new” has worn off and one is really starting to see the shadows sides of the other person. And they are seeing yours. The parts that are not attractive are starting to show themselves. And so is the neediness that lies beneath those unattractive parts.
And now my friend is backing off, and so is the other person, because the neediness seems just too much.
Reaching out in love sounds good, until the “real” shows itself and we begin to wonder about what it might take to heal what is broken. It just seems too much, and too consuming. We have enough to do just to heal ourselves.
Not very long ago this year, I went through a period in my comings and goings around here, when I was noticing how much “weeding” needed to be done. (At least, weeding I thought needed to be done.) Every time, at least in the day light when I got out off or back into my car; I thought “wow” there are so many weeds everywhere! Somebody needs to do something. There are so many and they making the grounds look unkempt and unattractive. I thought the weeds were obscuring the beauty of what was blooming and it was bothering me.
Sometimes, not very long ago this year when I found myself sitting at my desk too long, I would get up and go out there into the memorial garden, or on the other side past the foyer…. and I would have that thought again. Too many weeds!
In my head, I would think, “if I start pulling something up, it will lead to pulling more up and I just can’t take that project on right now. Let me see if I can recruit someone! It really needs doing!”
My friend is at that stage in her relationship. She’s gotten close enough with the person she is involved with to see what appears to be weeds. She is backing away and so is the other person. Both of them are saying; I don’t have time for “that”!
That’s a huge project, and I am a busy person. (They have considered finding a relationship counselor who perhaps they can employ to pull weeds!)
Then something changed! After a few weeks of my un-acted upon obsessive thoughts about the plentitude of weeds around here, I began to see again and again that almost every single thing I thought was a weed, and I was ready to pull up and cast out, bloom!
And “the weeds” didn’t just bloom once and then go back to being ugly weeds. There has been a succession of blooms, all colors and shapes and sizes. Just about everything I would have pulled up, given the time and the tools, or the volunteers, sprouted something delightful Around where I park my car, where I stroll when I am needing a change of scenery, all around these grounds, have been wave after wave of blossoms.
Now there are some weeds, maybe, but I know now that I have seen so much successive displays of beauty and color that I am way more hesitant to pull up anything.
Once my mind moved away from seeing weeds and into seeing the glory, I then spent weeks and weeks thinking about what was this transformational experience teaching me?
When my friend shared about the current state of her relationship and how the amount of neediness was making both her and her potential partner consider backing away, calling it quits, or at least calling in the weeding consultants, I realized I had been “there” too.
And, I have also been in the place where, instead of backing away from me, or coming at me with a gardening hoe, I have experienced the kind of curious, confident love that wants to know what that ugly, needy place is in me.
Love reaching out is not about being so ready to manage the environment. It is about listening with the intent of caring, listening and seeing with the intent of learning to receive what comes toward us as a potential source of delight.
I know now, that most of the plants around here are not “volunteers”. Somebody planted them. Somebody who knew what they were doing. I have heard stories about the “master gardener”. What I thought were weeds; that have been springing into bloom, successively since very early spring all around this building; I now take as all the proof I need that someone had a plan! I am learning to trust that plan.
If I had eradicated what appeared to be a weed, I would have missed part of the plan meant for my delight, my enjoyment, my lesson in loving what is. I would have missed out on the opportunity to be transformed.
“Love reaching out.”
I don’t know exactly what those who are going to General Assembly are going to hear. I don’t know what messages are planned, what the theme talks will say, what the workshops will teach.
But I do know that love isn’t in trying to manage what appears to be out of order. Love understands that it is big enough to hear the whole story, to see beauty in all things at all stages of life.
To live interdependently is to move out of the private lives we have constructed for ourselves, and go public. There will be weeds. There will be needs. Sometimes it will be overwhelming. Too much to do, too much to fix and straighten out, too much to organize, too much hunger and need.
Perhaps we will begin to believe we are all part of a master plan; a plan that creates successive beauty. We have had our time in the temple of the self. It is time to move out and move on and into the garden of all that is. To see if this love we speak of, can stand with in the sun and see beauty in every being. To see if this love we speak of, can move past indifference and isolation, and love strangers on the street.
It is time for a big love that reaches out…
Love Reaches Out