Stepping into Discomfort
The worship theme for September is “Covenant.” This theme reminds us that a distinguishing characteristic of FUUSN and Unitarian-Universalism is the covenantal foundations of our community. We come together in relationship as a spiritual community that is characterized by our covenantal promises of how we will relate with one another as we engage in the present and future life and work of the Congregation. We enter into covenant because we want to be part of a community that nurtures and supports us and through which we can nurture and support others to realize a better world. Lately, I’ve been experiencing how challenging it can be at times to maintain our covenant. I have found that the fuller and deeper our covenant-based commitments to one another, the more we open ourselves to the inevitability of personal emotional discomfort. This discomfort can take many forms with which I am personally intimately familiar—disappointment, disenchantment, sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, embarrassment or shame are just a few examples. Living in community we are exposed over and over to our personal imperfections and the very human limitations of our fellow congregants. Living in community also highlights our differences as well as similarities, differences that may be profound and hard to accept or appreciate. The more we engage in the life and work of the Congregation, the more we encounter the inherent gap between our covenantal vision of a community in right relationship and the present reality of who we are as individuals and who and where we are as a congregation. from the board (continued)
The natural response to discomfort is to avoid, suppress, or deny our discomfort, to attribute it to others, or to incrementally or dramatically pull back or even withdraw from the community. This is problematic because it moves us further away from realizing the very rare and precious form of community experience that we are seeking by entering into our covenant in the first place. This past year I’ve been experimenting with a different way of responding to my discomfort–by stepping into it. By stepping into my discomfort, I openly and willingly acknowledge and accept the inevitability of my personal discomfort as a normal, natural, and even necessary part of my entering into spiritual covenant and participating in the life of this community. It means being willing to listen to my discomfort, to stay with it, to appreciate it, and to hear what it may have to tell me. It also means being willing to share my discomfort with others and to listen openly and appreciatively to the discomfort of others. Just as entering into our covenant is an act of willingness, stepping into our discomfort is also an act of willingness. Because we are naturally pulled toward comfort over discomfort, stepping into discomfort and staying with it is something we must intentionally choose to practice as we engage in the life of this community. Our willingness to practice this may wax and wane; it may vary by the day or by the situation. The same is true of our commitment to our covenant that is tested over and over by circumstances, by the actions and expressions of our fellow congregants, and by our own profound and imperfect humanness. This to me is the heart of our spiritual practice: to be in community, to step into discomfort and work through our discomfort, and to continually renew our covenant.