A moment of grace happened tonight, that I thought I’d share:
My partner Hawk and I are planning a church service together. We’re co-leading the service at his aunt’s Unitarian Universalist church. I think it has come as a surprise to both of us that the planning process has been fairly contentious. I.e., on most things we are not tending to see eye to eye. From how we were going to actually compose the sermon to which affirmation to use for the benediction, we’ve been disagreeing on everything.
Things had gotten out of hand, to the point where it seemed like every time we sat down to actually plan the thing, we ended up having a big fight! I kept thinking, For crying out loud, this is supposed to be a sacred occasion and an opportunity to be of service (to the Great Love, no less) and here we are fighting! What is going on? But I also knew that I was as responsible as anyone for the condition our process was in. And, truthfully, I didn’t really have any faith in my ability to not start or engage in arguments with Hawk over bits and pieces of the service. I could see that something was pushing my button for “feeling threatened and powerless” — I didn’t know why it had come up, but I was stuck in a pattern of feeling like all my opinions were being steamrollered, if that is the right word — feeling like I didn’t have any say and my creative contribution ws going to be lost. This is something from my childhood. I don’t really know why it’s been coming up at this particular moment or what triggered it in the first place, but I was definitely feeling stuck, and I was really suffering because of it.
I have, however, been praying for grace — this was both strongly encouraged by Hawk and inspired by the Caroline Myss book I mentioned in the previous post (in response, in fact, to just such fears as as I described). Once I humbled myself enough to be willing to let go of the pain (and to try something Hawk suggested) I prayed for my heart to be strengthened enough that I would be able to choose things that were harder but right. And I prayed that my actions could be aligned with God’s will. (This phrase, for me, expresses my knowing that I am out of alignment and also not honestly knowing how I will — or can — bring myself into re-alignment; I guess it is an expression of trust in grace, that somehow even if I don’t actually think I have the strength of will to always do what is of the highest good, it can — somehow — end up being done through me.)
And also I took a page from the AA book — one I never really got into while I was going to AA, but which felt appropriate now — and prayed that God would take away my character flaws. Jealousy, for one, and the fear of being overshadowed (itself actually an expression of choosing the ego over the higher self). I did not groove on the language of “character flaws” in my AA days, let me tell you. But I’m at a place now where I see the value that concept can have … I can see how such a prayer could really be the gateway to having a big step up. (I think the twelve step program is actually a wonderful path of prayer, self-knowledge, knowledge of God, and service — not unlike the path of mysticism that I was talking about before. Note how I never got a sponsor or did the twelve steps, either. 🙂 )
Anyway, when I wasn’t actively engaged in prayer, I wasn’t really thinking about these things as I went about my day, but I gradually realized that a shift was happening in the way Hawk and I were working on the service — or rather, in the way I perceived the process. I actually started being able, when I noticed a potential conflict coming up, to not start a fight! Sometimes this meant just letting something pass by without question or comment, and sometimes it meant telling Hawk that I wasn’t thrilled with some element he was proposing, but I was willing to go along with it if he was excited about it. I felt glad that we seemed to have achieved some degree of peace, though it felt precarious to me.
then we got to the subject of the affirmation to use in the benediction. Hawk had proposed something; I had objected on the grounds that it wasn’t specific enough to our topic; yadda yadda yadda; I had made a whole fuss about it the last time we tried to have a planning session. This time, I said to myself, I will go with the strategy that seems to have been sorking so well — just go along with whatever he proposes for the sections he’s in charge of. So when he brought it up, I just said, Ok, sure, that’s fine.
But even though I said it was fine, he went on to explain why he liked it, why he felt like it was a good finish to the service, and how he thought it related to our sermon. At first, I started to get a little defensive — I could feel some resistance coming up. Then the thought occurred to me — and this, I think, was the moment of grace — like a little voice in my head: “Wow, ok, he’s trying to share with me why he thinks this would be a good fit, and I’m just dismissing it because I still want to hold onto my feeling of being right, regardless of whether we use it or not. What if I just — allowed myself to listen to his reasoning? What if I opened just that much?” And … as a matter of fact … I did start really listening to what he was saying. And I did feel my heart opening — and I did get where he was coming from. Really.
So I was able to say, Yes, let’s go with that, and actually mean it. And some peace was sustained. But really the true moment of grace was in the sudden flash of light with which I saw that I was really attached to the feeling of being right — that up to this point I’d been choosing that over my love for my partner. And once I am able to see that that’s the choice I’m making with my actions (in this case, my words as actions) — I definitely do not want to stay there! But I might still not have the moral courage to change my direction — in essence, admit that I was wrong, and change my actions and words accordingly — were it not for God’s grace and the strengthening of my heart that I prayed for. In fact, it may be that every time I admit to being wrong, and that someone else was right (or even just that they have a good point!), that is happening because of an intervention of grace. Because the habit of clinging to the sense of rightness is very strong in me. And I think that much of the time I don’t even realize I’m doing it — let alone realize what choices I’m making from that place, and what those choices say about my priorities! I’m saddened every time it strikes me how far away I am from the ideal … but I do have faith that I can get better, step by step. And moments of revelation like this one tonight, where I realize how much I am reliant on grace for any change I make for the better in my self … are really pretty mind-blowing to me, pretty heart-filling. And I just have to say I’m grateful for being shown a glimpse of what I was actually doing, difficult though it may be for me to witness, and I’m grateful that although I didn’t know if I would be able to do it, the right thing happened through me.
Good night and love,