I’ve been sluggish. And a little selfish. And drinking just a little more often than is good for me. I’ve been giving into my desires regularly and without resistance. I’ve been twirling my hair and picking my fingers, old habits I had been working to abolish. I’ve put on more weight than I’d like.
I’m trying really hard not to shame myself or feel bad or say all the "shoulds." But there is a nagging within. There is a nagging that wakes me in the night. A guy at the gym said the other day,
“I don’t do anything enough except worry about not doing enough.”
The nagging comes from a place of RIGHT and WRONG. I can’t seem to let go of that lingering concept of SIN. I hold on to the idea that there is a good and I am not doing it. I judge myself. I judge others. I long to feel peace and esteem and a sense of approval. But from what?
I wrestle with the idea of a personal god. It just doesn’t ring true for me. There is something greater - be it the force of energy in the universe or some kind of love that connects mankind. If there is a god - I definitely cannot get behind the idea that s/he would condemn most of mankind to eternity in hell. That’s why I’ve found a home in the UU church. The UU church originated in the belief in universal salvation. As Thomas Starr King said,
“The Universalists believe that God is too good to damn humanity, while the Unitarians believe that humanity is too good to be damned by God.”
[If you want a taste of what this means, listen to this sermon. It’s moving.]
And today, their first principle echoes this: The inherent worth and dignity of every person. Inherent. That means something that is permanent, essential and characteristic. Love, grace, dignity and worth - inherent. They are part of us from the get. We don’t do anything to get them. We didn’t do anything not to get them. Now that feels true to me.
But there’s a difference between knowing something is true and living that truth in your life. We naturally go back to the dark. For me the dark is judgment, shame, a fear of being outside, turned away and lost to love. For me the dark is the way I grew up - the Christian doctrine I was raised to believe. There are the believers and the non-believers. You’re either IN or you’re OUT. It’s a very exclusive idea of god, and it makes me ache with the sorrow of where that leads - to judgement, to thinking others are wrong in their pursuit of truth, to self-righteousness. It’s largely the reason I quit going to Reston Bible Church. I was rumpled. They were clean pressed.
So, last night I lay awake wrestling with my inner self. I was grateful when my alarm went off - not because I’m so excited about doing pushups (I loathe pushups) but because going to the gym means fortifying myself with the strength of others. It’s where I am accepted, rumples and all. The group of women I work out with are there to get strong - not to look perfect. They are there to support each other physically but also emotionally. And tonight I get to go meet with another group of women who will hear me, really hear me, when we check in at our inreach meeting.
We all have conversion stories. We all have life-changing moments when we understand a truth that we never understood before, when we see the light.
Here’s my conversion story. Here’s where the scales fell off my eyes.
I arrived late, and someone said, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
To me, this sums up universal love, community and what it is I seek from the people in my life and what I seek to give. This acceptance and welcoming is what was missing from the culture of my upbringing and what I’ve had missing all these years. I’ve had friends who have loved me, indeed, but going to these places with people I would not otherwise have known or sought out, people who are different than me in age, orientation, ethnicity, and lifestyle, this is where I find the structure of community.
They are humans searching for truth, rumpled and irregular. And it’s like looking into a mirror and seeing inherent love shining back at me.
I’ve been struggling to find a better motivator than “you’re doing it wrong.” I’ve been trying to find a way to both love myself and push myself toward greater health, generosity, forgiveness, strength and fruitfulness. Instead of coming from a place a scarcity (fill myself with whatever I can get because I am lacking), I want to come at life from a place of abundance, fueled by gratitude. But shame sneaks in and makes me selfish.
And that’s when I go to my people. That’s when I need a reminder that I’ve got worth and dignity and love and grace and beauty and salvation and holiness and abundance all right there already.
Inherent. Inherent. Inherent.