by Rev. Dave Dunn
Part of UUMAN’s mission is to “Nurture Our Spirit.” Note that the wording is nurture our spirit; not nurture my spirit. UU theologian Thandeka has always said that salvation is not a solo act. Nurturing our spirit is not a solo act either.
We all experience loss in our lifetimes. It’s part of what it means to be alive. And loss is something we also experience collectively as a gathered religious community. It’s part of what it means to be alive as a gathered religious community.
Each week we share our joys and sorrows into that gathered community. We say, “we share our Joys with each other to magnify them, and our Sorrows to divide the weight of their pain.”
Recently, we’ve experienced some deep losses both as individuals and as a community. It hurts. It’s painful. When we, or one, are in pain, we must individually and communally nurture one another’s spirits. This is easier said than done. Confronting another’s pain is difficult, likely because it resonates with some of our own.
Author Brene Brown writes:
My mom taught us to never look away from people’s pain. The lesson was simple: Don’t look away. Don’t pretend not to see hurt. Look people in the eye. Even when their pain is overwhelming. And when you’re in pain, find the people who can look you in the eye. We need to know we’re not alone – especially when we’re hurting. This lesson is one of the greatest gifts of my life.
It's important to understand that being present with someone who is hurting, dividing the weight of their pain, isn’t about eliminating the pain. Although not looking away is difficult, one need not feel an added burden of trying to fix anything, trying to eliminate the pain. The Catholic priest Henri Nouwen writes:
When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand….The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness - that is the friend who cares.
A seminary friend of mine said, “Every person you meet has at least one secret that will break your heart.” We don’t know what it is, we just know it to be true. May we honor those secrets. May we honor the crosses we all carry in this community. And moving from me to we, may we nurture our spirits together through our community of care.
Nurture our spirit. Strive for Justice. Transform the world.