March’s theme is Journey.
We UU’s love to tell our journey stories. And hear each other’s journey stories. Whereas other religions have newcomers stand up and confess their fallen ways or declare a commitment to one way, we invite each other to talk about how our way is like no other.
It’s a curious thing when you think about it. We welcome people to our fold not by asking them to commit to thinking exactly as the group does, but by having them declare how their journey is not like anybody else in the group. It’s about space, not similarity. We bind ourselves to each other not by sharing the same journey but by offering each other the room to discover the unique journey that fits us. It’s about making room for people to write their own stories.
Or maybe it’s about making room for people to re-write their stories.
It’s become popular in our society to talk about spiritual journeys as a process of living into your full or true self. That’s a helpful frame. And yet there’s something deep within UUism that resists it. Historically, we’ve been the people that struggled not so much to find ourselves but to untangle ourselves from the religious identities we were given. Our spiritual journeys did not begin with a blank slate; they began with the hunger to wipe the slate clean and begin anew.
So we have this important awareness that spiritual journeys are not simply about finding your true self, but also about untangling from your old self. We agree with Albert Schweitzer who wrote:
The path of awakening is not about becoming who you are. Rather it is about unbecoming who you are not.
Which means we are also sensitive to the fact that most spiritual journeys begin with a leaving, a separation, a decision to walk away. We know that the first step is often laced with mourning and isolation. We know that “unbecoming” is not easy work.
We also know that it isn’t a one-time thing. We find ourselves routinely tangled up in all kinds of identities and journeys that aren’t truly ours. “Unbecoming who you are not” is a journey we walk every day.
So what does all this mean for us this month? Well, first, it’s an important reminder that we’re not just here to help each other hold steady and persevere on our current paths; often our primary gift is to help each other find the exit ramps.
It also means remembering that being a people of journey involves tenderness. We are here not just to make room for each other’s unique stories; we are also here to make room for each other’s pain. Again, “unbecoming who you are not” involves bravely walking away, isolation and mourning. And so, if we are going to complete our journeys of unbecoming and becoming anew, we’re definitely going to need pitstops of kindness and tenderness along the way.
Excerpt from Soul Matters curriculum