Expectations, and Resistance

There are things I wish I didn’t expect.  Like, this not being the last time that news of a heavily-armed man taking aim at a vulnerable group of people, injuring many, killing a few, breaks through an otherwise joy-filled day of rest and revelry.  I wish I could say I believed we were done. That we had reached a tipping point.  That the national and international press my friend and colleague, the Rev. Nori Rost has received for the vigil at All Souls Unitarian Universalist church in Colorado Springs was an indication that saner gun laws were in our near future, and that there would be a softening of the rhetoric from the far right media (and Presidential candidates) in the coming days, that we would usher in a reckoning of truth-telling and reconciliation.  I wish I expected something to change, like a switch to flip, where a new day would break, and all of us would begin anew.

The past few weeks have been rough for those of us who expect life to make sense, for humans to be generally good, and for the moral arc of the universe to be trending toward justice.  I’m still feeling heartsick from the news of the two 11 year olds in our community who took their own lives just a couple of weeks ago.  Meanwhile, even as we inch closer to this holiday where the central myth tells about finding God in the heart of the homeless stranger, political leaders, our neighbors,  our family members, and we find ourselves caught in a cycle of fear and a desire for control that has us hanging up big bold signs all along our borders: “No Room At the Inn.”

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance,” says the Buddha, and I think he’s right.  There is something spiritually wise and important about accepting the moment just as it is – rather than longing or waiting for a different moment.  And still, I am not sure “serenity” is an appropriate response to this moment, as it actually is.

These times ask us to instead be what Martin Luther King Jr. called, “creatively maladjusted.” These times ask us to see and name what is not right, what is dis-ordered in the world and to refuse to believe it is normal, or acceptable, or moral – and instead to believe that we are meant for something else – to expect peace, and equality, and mutual respect – for everyone, including ourselves.   And these times ask us to come together in our congregation as a part of what Unitarian Universalist minister Rebecca Parker calls a”community of resistance,” which she defines as “countercultural habitations in which people learn ways to survive and thrive that can resist and sometimes even transform an unjust dominant culture.”

This Sunday we’ll kick off our exploration of the theme of “Expectations,” a theme ripe for the holiday season in both its religious and secular traditions.  From the Maccabees to the Wise Men, from letters to Santa to the ancient anticipation of the return of the light, to the regular present-day expectations we all set for how the holidays are “supposed to be,” this season is a great practice and reminder of both the gift and the challenge of expectations.  As we walk together in both our greatest joys as well as our most profound grief, my hope for us this season is for us to help each other resist believing that this is the best we can do, to resist despair, and to resist complacency.  And instead, that we might bolster our continued expectations for something more, something more beautiful, more brave, more compassionate to take hold, and for us to see ourselves as a critical part in this great turning.  Each of our lives in little and sometimes big ways, a critical part- and our whole community, a vital part.

What new survival techniques will we offer each other? What practices can we take up so that we are both accepting life as it is and expecting something more? …so that we can thrive in this tension?  Remaining open-hearted in this tension, remaining awake and alive, we might even, sometimes, transform.

Let’s expect it.

About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley is relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy of pop culture (reflected in this blog by random posts on Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Scandal, Orphan Black, or the latest Marvel movie). She has an audacious ambition for the liberal church, believing in its capacity to transform lives and our world by way of hyper-local relationships and partnerships that inspire the unleashing of courageous love. She's all in on adrienne maree brown's emergent strategy, and finds solace in the trails in and around Fort Collins Colorado where she serves with the brilliant Rev. Sean Neil-Barron as one of the ministers of the Foothills Unitarian Church. She and her amazing partner of over 20 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (14) and Josef (12) who both relish and resent being PKs, and who keep her grounded, frustrated, inspired, and humbled, everyday. She is basically obsessed with her puppy, a large sized mutt, Charlie.
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2 Responses to Expectations, and Resistance

  1. Ellen Bandsma says:

    Thank you, Gretchen, for your beautiful words. I am grateful you have come into our lives.


  2. I love this question: “What practices can we take up so that we are both accepting life as it is and expecting something more?”

    I do find huge value in the Buddhist approach of not resisting what is. I tend to cast it along the lines of, “this is exactly where we should be, given all that has come before.” Planned Parenthood clinic shootings (where, I remind myself, a well-prepared clinic minimized casualties as best they could) are exactly the result we should expect from all that has come before in the way of fear mongering around gun control, Christian extremism, and a culture that does not teach how to nurture mental health or accept without shame mental illness. I can accept that this is where we are meant to be in this moment.

    Expecting something more, or at least holding out hope, I also find easier and easier to do, as I experience the aha moments of a shift in consciousness on some aspect or other of my self-awareness. There are tipping points and moments of grace and “scales falling from the eyes” and slower shifts as well. I can hold out hope that what I can experience, we can collectively experience as well. I feel like I am viewing every heart-rending tragedy from the middle of the story, not knowing how it plays out and how each crisis builds on the next to create political will or cultural self-awareness or a rejection of previous ways of thought.

    This approach doesn’t lead me to be a fiery activist, for certain, but I’d already come to the conclusion the world does not need more outrage (from me, at least), but more connection to that quiet and true inner voice that is so easily drowned out.

    Looking forward to hearing more on the topic from you!


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