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It’s become popular in our society to talk about spiritual journeys as a process of living into your full or true self, of letting the authentic seed inside you unfold. We UU’s agree. We even enshrined it in our principles that celebrate each of our unique seeds (inherent worth) and unique journeys (a free and responsible search).
At the same time, there’s something deep within UUism that pushes in the opposite direction. Historically, we’ve been “leavers” – people who struggled not so much to find ourselves but to untangle ourselves from the religious identities we were given. Our spiritual journeys did not begin with a blank slate; they began with the hunger to wipe that slate clean and begin anew.
So we have this important awareness that spiritual journeys are not simply about unfolding your true self, but also about untangling from your old self. We agree with Albert Schweitzer who wrote:
“The path of awakening is not about becoming who you are. Rather it is about unbecoming who you are not.”
Which means we are also sensitive to the fact that most spiritual journeys begin with a goodbye -a separation, a decision to walk away. We know that the first step is often laced with mourning, difficult endings and, all too often, isolation. We know that “unbecoming” is not easy work.
We also know that it isn’t a one-time thing. We find ourselves routinely tempted into and thus tangled up in all kinds of identities and journeys that aren’t truly ours. “Unbecoming who you are not” is a journey we walk every day, over and over again.
So what does all this mean for us this month? Well, first, it’s an important reminder that we’re not just here to help each other hold steady and persevere on our current paths. Often our primary gift is to help each other find and take the exit ramps.
It also means remembering that being a people of becoming involves tenderness. We are here not just to make room for each other’s unique stories; we are also here to make room for each other’s pain. Again, “unbecoming who you are not” involves bravely walking away, enduring isolation and navigating grief. And so, if we are going to complete our journeys of unbecoming and becoming anew, we’re definitely going to need pit stops of kindness and tenderness along the way.
May this month be a time of pulling into one of those pit stops, together. Let the unraveling begin!