It is so important to not only seek out joy but to live in it. There is so much in this life that can bring us joy. There are also moments, events, and people who can knowingly or unknowingly steal our joy at times. We must hang on to our joy at all times.
I got a little bent out of shape earlier this week. I was being challenged by a very close family member not just on my beliefs but because I do not believe the way the majority of the people believe in my family. This very thing pops up at least 2 or 3 times a year and it is tiring. It happens. Most of the people in my family are Southern Baptist – you know, the people with all the answers (pardon my attitude). I then vented about it on Facebook only to delete the post.
As Unitarian Universalists, we find comfort in our Faith knowing that no one persecutes us within our organization's walls where beliefs are concerned. We are hoping that others outside of our walls will not bring us spiritual injury – but some do. Sometimes we let them. Sometimes we walk away. Sometimes we stay and argue. I think for those of us who take UUism to heart, we truly do work to respect each person on his or her path – even those people who are so dead-set on converting the world to what he/she believes. We respect each person’s path – even those who are out to bring us spiritual harm.
As a former minister in the Christian faith, I had to be quite vocal in advising this family member that while I find value and merit in many of the teachings of the Rabbi Yeshua (or Jesus), most of the teachings from institutional Christianity I discarded a long time ago. As one who still keeps Christianity tucked away as part of my spiritual history and part of my dualistic spiritual path, I had to explain that I am not a literalist when it comes to sacred text.
The literal teachings of heaven and hell, Satan, the Second Coming, the Resurrection of Jesus – these are areas that have always challenged my mind. I am just not sold on these areas of belief. Whether these things exist or whether these events have happened or will happen are of very little interest to me. I do not say that with arrogance or to tout disbelief. I say this because it is not something I wish to invest in. I have never understood it.
Just as fundamentalist Christians enjoy picking and choosing which verses from the scriptures they will use to abuse others with or exercise privilege with, I have taken delight in picking and choosing which ones make sense to me or are relevant to my personal path. Modern day interpretations certainly have infiltrated and bastardized the original translations from the original Greek. The same is true from my Earth-centered beliefs. I do not consider myself Pagan or Shamanistic, even though a lot of what I believe and practice draws from those systems (and my spouse and I were married by a Shaman). I do not call upon a God/Goddess/Lord/Lady, for example. But it is my Agnostic self that takes over in most instances – allowing me to question, seek, learn, draw from others, and yet not be so quick to label particular aspects of the spiritual.
It is interesting how many religions focus on death and the afterlife – the preparation for such in the earthly life. Growing up in Christianity – this is all I ever heard about. Getting one’s “soul right” with Jesus/God was the hot topic. Living a life of sacredness coupled with fear were ingredients of spiritual discipline. And I tried HARD to do all of this. I tried HARD to understand it. I even went into ordained ministry to see if I could get it to work. I prayed. I went on retreats. I underwent spiritual counseling. I met with bishops and priests in my faith to discuss it to get it “right.” I just always felt like I was staring at a blank wall. That always made me feel guilty – especially since I eventually wound up with a collar around my neck and a congregation to care for. Meanwhile, I was bleeding to death inside.
It is for these reasons alone that I find comfort and draw strength in Unitarian Universalism. In UUism, I’m not the oddball in the room (just one of many!). In UUism, I am not looked down on because of what I believe or how I believe it. This is expressed each Sunday when Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Pagans, and other Seekers all come together under one roof to share Common Ground at the local UU meeting house.
A dear friend of mine said to me this week to not let others steal my joy. What is interesting is that when I have provided spiritual counseling to others I have advised them of the same thing. The teacher becomes the student. And all of us – ministers and laity alike – need to be reminded of these simple truths. Joy is something that is precious – like a fine jewel – that can be easily stolen if not protected. This protection comes from knowing yourself, standing in your personal truth, and not allowing the outside world with all of it various beliefs and cares stab you in the heart. It will try to wound you, convert you, rob you – but you hold the key to true love and joy. I was thankful for that reminder this week. It was what I needed to hear.
As you go about your journey this week, I wish you love, joy and peace in all things. I wish for you mindfulness. I wish for you comfort and serenity – even when it seems like there is so much turmoil or negative energy rustling around near your feet. The Buddha reminds us that “You have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy.” Let us focus on that. Let us think about the things in our personal lives, in our communal lives that bring us that to that state of gratitude and joy.