There is nothing I like better this time of year than to be outside.
That’s even more true when we experience these glorious long sunny days. As I walk around the hospital where I work, everyone’s sentences seem to end with “but at least the sun is shining!”
I love the sun, but I also love watching the seasons change. Last weekend you could literally almost see the leaves popping out, and where we had snow three weeks ago, we are now immersed in green.
And yet, as much as these natural transitions and seasonal changes fill me with life and hope, to watch the world around me blossom, this transformational process can also bring a lot of uncertainty, vulnerability,
American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, in her book When Things Fall Apart, says this:
To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. (p. 71-72)
The change in seasons here in Alaska happens almost violently … trees burst into blossom almost overnight. Fall lasts about three weeks, if we’re lucky. The leaves turn shades of yellow and orange until with one good windstorm, we find ourselves in the barrenness of winter, lit by sparkling hoarfrost and snow-blanketed mountains. And what sometimes feels like an eternity later, we feel the light returning, and green returns to our landscape.
Chodron’s words and these natural cycles resonate with my Christian faith, reminding me of the close connections between death and new life. Part of the reality of that is that we experience suffering. We lose hopes, relationships, people, ways of being that we are deeply attached to. And we also experience new birth, change that brings hope and life.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about resilience, and the characteristics that help us navigate those changes. I’m struck by the ways that being intentional about gratitude can make a difference. That being intentional about treating ourselves – bodies, mind, spirits – with love, gentleness, with good food and fun activities, being sensitive to what it is that we yearn for, can help us move through difficult times.
One of the things that can make a tremendous difference is to truly pay attention to the beauty in our midst.
Recently my girlfriend and I were out for a walk with the dog, and came across two butterflies lost in a breathtaking courting dance. They flew around us, seeming to only see each other.
It occurs to me that one of the gifts that we bring, as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning people and allies, is to shine light on the beauty of transformation. The journeys we take at times involve a great deal of suffering – rejection, self-questioning, isolation, doubt, shame. But they also offer a tremendous courage and beauty. We learn to be honest about who we are. Honest about who we love. Brave about naming the truths of our lives, and letting that incredible beauty show, a beauty the world has not always recognized.
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
This is an essential gift we bring, and we bring it not in isolation (though truly it comes one relationship at a time), but that we also bring and share as a community. We are light that the world needs. We bring the color of blossoming trees, the energy of new life and creativity, into a world that is often afraid, unaccustomed to seeing possibility.
As we celebrate Pride this week (don’t miss the many great events happening!), we have an opportunity to celebrate the gifts we share, the gifts of who we are and who we love. We are a brilliant, joy-filled people. We are also people, like anyone else, with flaws and fears and hurts. We are a people transforming – transforming ourselves, and by being ourselves, transforming the world. As we bring that brilliance to the world, and celebrate this week, in the words of Osho,
Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move.
Today (Sunday, June 9) at 1 p.m. (Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 3201 Turnagain St), we’ll be honoring and celebrating the journey of transformation, including a variety of faith perspectives and journeys, at an interfaith Pride Service. Join us! All are welcome.
As children’s book author Peter H. Reynolds recently said,
About me: Susan is a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor, serving as a hospital chaplain, and has for many years been the “lesbian poster child” in her church. She finds the Sacred all kinds of places — in the mountains, in church, at a hospital bedside, in the midst of a heartfelt conversation, running along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, in music that makes her cry and stories that make her laugh.
There is more good than bad in this world, more light than darkness, and you can make more light.