What Can We Count On? (Part 1)

PictureI write this post nearly two weeks into the federal government shutdown, and once again on the brink of national (which would likely mean global) financial disaster.

Though there is talk of a deal in the works, the process leading here has only further degraded any small shreds of confidence that we held in our leaders and the process before this latest round – and now…it’s hard not to give up on politics entirely, isn’t it?

Unlike other national political crises, however, the impact of the shutdown has not remained theoretical or far-away. With friends, neighbors, maybe even ourselves, suddenly off from work without a clear path forward – this crisis has arrived in our own communities, in our homes, in our everyday realities. The garage is cleaner, and the lawn winterized, but the heart – and the checkbook – wearier, more fragile, tired.

Over these past few weeks, I have talked to more than a few of you who have admitted feeling testier, more ill at ease, less trusting of the world and the people of the world. I feel it too, in my own life. What was already a complex life is made just that much more complicated and confusing against the backdrop of such a national crisis.

This is what it means when we say we are individuals who are a part of a larger interconnected web of existence. What happens in the wider web impacts us, whether we realize it explicitly or not. The struggles of our country ripple out until they become our individual struggles; the questions facing our community impact the questions we face in our every day lives – and vice versa. Everything matters, and our destiny is inextricably interconnected.

Affirming this, we seem to be faced with two options: giving up, and giving in to despair and cynicism; or being the change we wish to see in the world. I admit, sometimes the former tempts me, and makes its case quite persuasively. And yet, I know in my heart I am bound by the commitments of my Unitarian Universalist faith that call me into partnership with the forces of love and justice in the world. And these forces compel me to choose the latter. To do what I can, for the time I have, to keep alive the story of hope (to paraphrase Victoria Safford).

But how? How do we keep steady in our commitment to goodness even as the world around us seems to invite the opposite? What can offer us comfort, grounding, purpose, during times of great change and complexity? What can we count on to hold us steady through the storm? Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams says it this way: “Whether people call themselves theists or atheists, the issue comes down to this: What is ultimately reliable?”

Over the next few months, I will be exploring this question in depth and from various angles. For this month, I invite you to consider: what do you turn to as “ultimately reliable” through times of change? What grounds you, orients you, calls you back to yourself and allows you to act in the ways you wish the whole world would act? How do you name this reality, this ground of your being?

Next month, I will share some of my answers to these questions, as well as a little of my process in coming up with them. I encourage you to share your answers with your friends, family, with one another in your small groups and/or with me. Discovering our answers together we can help each other remember these most core truths, even as the world around us may change. We hold each other steady, no matter what may come.

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About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley serves as the Senior Minister of the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO. She's relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation and poetry, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy and often-great-depth of popular (and less popular) television and music. She and her partner of 17 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (10) and Josef (8).
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