You know I’m moving into a new home. Not a new house. Just a house that’s new to me. It’s an old house, with lots of old house
One bit of that old house character is a little bit of a leaky roof. No problem. Roofs can be repaired. But the attic insulation that had been soaking up water for awhile needed to be replaced, too. And when some of that insulation was pulled up, we discovered exposed electrical wires in over-crowded junction boxes. (Yikes!) So that had to be addressed.
All of that is fixable. But it can feel stressful that each issue seems to conceal other hidden issues that also need attention. Every intended improvement can feel daunting, because I start to expect that it’s going to take more effort than I bargained for.
Sometimes we treat our own spiritual growth like that, too. If I start to look inward and work on one aspect of myself, I might uncover a whole lot of other things that need attention to. Maybe I start out with the intention of strengthening my leadership skills, and the next thing you know I’m uncovering hidden fears about whether I’m acceptable as I am, hidden biases about others, deep-seated people-pleasing habits, and all sorts of other “growth edges”!
Some of us might decide that it isn’t worth the risk. It doesn’t feel safe to start peeling back the spiritual onion of our deeper selves. Growth feels vulnerable. Dangerous. It feels safer to just leave the insulation where it is and pretend that there’s nothing underneath to discover.
Not growing is dangerous too, though. Just like not dealing with the exposed wires in over-crowded junction boxes in my attic is dangerous. We’ve made commitments to a vision for the world that requires a lot of us. A world characterized by justice, equity, and compassion. We haven’t created that world yet. We’ve given our word to something we have to grow into.
We might have to do some vulnerable work within ourselves in order to do powerful visionary work in the world around us. At least, that’s been my experience.
Which is why we UUs affirm and promote acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth as our third principle. We have big work to do, and we need to know that we have a safe space to do it.
Spiritual growth can be messy sometimes. It can open up unexpected cans of worms within us and around us. That work becomes easier when we know that we are embraced by a community of people willing to create space for us to do the work we need to do—a community of people who are doing the same kind of vulnerable work themselves.
That might be one definition of a congregation.
Rev. Randy Partain