2012-06-08

Perfection and Intentionality

I'm asking this question: What kind of person would you like to be more like -- and that an ideal congregation would be able to help you be? Here at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, we've got the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism, and we have our congregational vision and mission statement. Yet the language therein is all fairly general.

If we could say how we wanted to be changed by affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person, how we wanted to be changed by being a part of a diverse religious community committed to lifelong spiritual growth and compassionate service – how we wanted to be changed by affirming and promoting respect for the interdependent web of all existence – how we would hope to be transformed by supporting each other in life’s passages and struggles; and if we could say what we thought it would do to us to celebrate connection to the sacredness of life and affirm and promote acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth, then we would know two really cool things.

First, we would know we were serious about those principles, about that vision, about that mission. If I expect my commitment to the goal of world community, to lifelong spiritual growth, and to respecting diversity to change me, that’s a meaningful commitment. If I don’t expect it to change me – if I don’t expect it to make a difference to who I am -- then I’m just paying lip service to those ideals. I’m just saying, “Yeah, that sounds good,” but I’m not expecting it to change my life, which means I’m not expecting it to really mean much to me.

Second, if we could say how we expected the work of upholding our principles, vision, and current mission to change us, then we would have a much better idea of how to specifically embody those rather abstract and general principles and ideals. We don’t need to spell out details. If we know what kind of people we are resolved to be on a path toward being, that will tell us what we need to know about how we’re going to affirm and promote inherent worth and dignity, how we’re going to be that diverse religious community, how we’re going to work compassionately for peace, liberty, and justice.

So, then, let us ask: To what shall each of us commit, as members, friends or visitors of our Fellowship? Who is the person you hope this Fellowship will help you become? What kind of work -- inner and outer -- are you ready to do, and that this Fellowship can help you with?

I need to be clear: this is not about what’s wrong with you that needs to be fixed. You are not broken and you don’t need fixing. You are perfect exactly the way you are.

I learned about human perfection almost 32 years ago on the day my first child was born. I held her in my arms, and she was perfect. And she grew, and she was challenging, and she became a teenager, and that was sometimes difficult. But if I stopped to ask myself the question, where along the line of her years did she stop being perfect, I would have to answer she never did. Her unfolding, her growing and changing, her challenge and difficulty, were a part of her perfection. Even when it was appropriate to identify a particular behavior as a mistake, it was a perfect mistake. It was exactly the mistake she needed to make to learn what she needed to learn in the ongoing unfolding of her perfection.

If she never stopped being perfect, then, I realized, neither did I. If I never stopped being perfect, then neither did you.

I believe in your perfection. I also believe that perfection is not static. It is a dynamic blossoming and unfolding.

We can let that unfolding happen accidentally. It is inevitable, in any case, that accident will play a large role. Or we can bring a measure of intentionality to our growth and unfolding.

To give voice to the yearnings of our own becoming: why, this is the function of prayer, is it not?

So let us pray.

The articulation we thereby bring to ourselves marshals our resources to unfold our perfection in a partly intentional -- rather than wholly accidental -- direction.

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This is part 5 of 6 of "Mission: Impossible"
Next: Part 6: "A Possible Mission"
Previous: Part 4: "Need Clarity? Name the Change"
Beginning: Part 1: "Theology and a TV Spy Show"