Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What comes around goes around...

and I got caught in that whirlpool a week or so ago.  I cringed as I heard from my favorite family member how I had hurt him awhile back by criticizing him at a hard time in his life.  I'd spoken without thinking:  oh, you shouldn't have done that! I'd said, not remembering how it had felt to me decades ago when my own mother was critical of me over religious issues.

I was the family apostate when I was younger.  I still am, I guess, as I have jettisoned much of my childhood faith while others have stayed staunchly traditional in their religious beliefs.  But I deeply resented my mother's efforts to tell me I was wrong and I avoided communication with her on all but the most superficial level for a long time.

If she was going to criticize, I was going to withdraw.  I'd avoid going to visit, I'd stop sharing the joys in my life, I'd throw away the "helpful" articles and disregard all her advice.  So there, Mom!  Take that!

My folks mostly avoided criticizing me, but I knew they worried about my behavior---my love life, my religion, the way we were raising our child.  When my dad died, my mom lost the anchor that had kept her from being cautious with her words.  And when she had recovered a bit from her grief, she turned her sights on me.

I knew she was doing it out of her love for me, but I couldn't tolerate the envelopes thick with clippings from various religious magazines, the leading questions about what I believed, the frequent mention of the prayers she sent heavenward in hopes that I would be repentant and return to the fold.

Eventually my sister told her to quit.  "It's not helping, Mom" she said bluntly.  "You'll just drive her away."  And my mom, to her credit, quit bugging me.

Before she died, my mother and I had reached equilibrium and could share our lives on a much better level, but I had never had the courage to discuss with her what had made me so angry with her.

I must have done something right with my favorite person, as he did have the courage to tell me what I'd done to hurt him.  I couldn't hear it at first; it took me awhile to remember and acknowledge what I'd done.  But he persisted and I'm grateful.

During the period of reflection which followed our conversation, I came to realize something very important:  I am no longer responsible for the choices he makes.  That's not my job.  That's his job and he does it pretty well.  I may not like all his choices, but that's okay.  I don't have to like them all.  But I do have to let go of any sense of responsibility for them.  He can handle them just fine and if he ever wants to ask what I think, I know he will do that.  When and if he does, I will listen and offer my thoughts.  But criticism is only hurtful.  I just hope I can always remember that!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Where is my chalice? and the candle? and the...

other accoutrements of ministry?  I unearthed my tattered copy of the grey hymnal and its mates, the teal one and the explanatory one, but I couldn't find the tallow-bedecked porta-chalice which I always use at "away" teaching gigs.  "Away" means, of course, not at my home congregation, not using my home congregation's chalice and other worship aids.

But now the Pacific UU Fellowship IS my home congregation and its chalice and candles are upstairs in the sanctuary and awkward to carry down to the fellowship hall, where I will be teaching UU 101 for the first time to this congregation.  I hadn't expected to get back into ministry activities so soon, but when six or seven new members showed up and were welcomed in without knowing a lick about Unitarian Universalist history, theology, or anything else, I volunteered to teach the class.  And that's today.

I have no idea what has happened to my own set of worship aids, but I suspect that when I packed up for my move last summer, they either were donated to the Whidbey folks or stored so deeply that they just haven't surfaced yet.  I wasn't thinking clearly about what I might need in the future.  I think I assumed that I would never need them again and so it didn't matter where I left them.  Folly!

I couldn't even find my packet of UU101 materials and have had to recreate them from a folder on my laptop which still existed.  Luckily, dear Mavis at UUCWI had made jpgs of some of them, so I have a copy of each document we used there.  Whew!  Thank you, Mavis!

We have ten people signed up for this UU 101 session and I just hope we have enough chili to feed everyone plus any visitor who decides to stay this afternoon.  The session will be held right after the worship service, starting with lunch and the sharing of spiritual journeys before we get into the nuts and bolts part of the session.

I am looking forward very much to teaching this class, but it makes me very aware of the danger of stepping on toes when doing things differently from how they've always been done.  Fortunately, so far I have managed to walk the tightrope between tradition and innovation and haven't fallen off onto some sacred cow.  We'll see how today goes.

The contrast between this tiny fellowship of 30 members and my former congregation of 100+ members is dramatic, but that ancient bugaboo of all institutions remains:  a handful of people do all the work.