Among the things that I do is attend a UU church. Last week, the ministerial intern asked if anyone would be interested in volunteering to give a little speech on the topic of “This I Believe”, based on NPR’s ‘This I believe’ series, and I said I would be.
This is the thing I did.
It has always sort of seemed to me that things fall apart in the summer. All of the ideas and energies of spring encounter the blistering heat and fade away into nothing. Perhaps when I was younger I felt crises didn’t have enough space to fit into my schedule during the school year, so they would wait until there was time to properly consume me.
Some years ago, I started work with a spiritual mentor, and one of the first things she asked was “What is your year like? When do you tend to get ideas? When do you tend to fall in love? When are your good times? When are your bad times?” And, dutifully, I went and wrote it down, and said, “Oh. No wonder,” because there were these gaps in the summer and the winter where I just had a hard time doing anything. It was impossible to build up any momentum.
Then I learned that I have an autoimmune disease. That the pain in my joints was not a normal thing that everyone has to deal with. That the mental fog isn’t universal. That a whole bunch of things.
That I am abnormally and particularly sensitive to extremes in temperature.
It was like being reborn. Like a sudden cool drink in the desert. Not that it made everything better, but it made everything make more sense. This was something I could get a handle on. And I started rebuilding my year, with these two tools – my mentor’s questions, my understanding of the failings of my body – using my own religious background as a tool.
So, yes. Things fall apart in the summer.
And then come the waters, and they wash it all away, everything that’s come apart, and in that clean new place, things grow again. And eventually – inevitably – it will work its way around to summer once more, and sure, it will all go to pieces.
But the waters, eventually, will come, and they will destroy everything that is there to be destroyed, but also, they will bring relief. They will bring a fresh start.
Happy new year!
I know it’s probably not any of yours, but it’s mine.
To be precise, Thursday was my liturgical new year. I celebrated yesterday with a number of people, and it wasn’t their new year either, but that doesn’t matter. Community is what matters, that thing that makes people flow together like water, that makes them find each other and support each other and develop that interdependence that means that when our worlds fall apart, someone is there to bring the flood again, to wash away the debris, and to say “We will make something grow.”
I’ve told any number of people this over the summer, so I will say it again: I was here five years ago or so, when my family lived in Billerica, when my oldest child was a toddler, and I kept telling people every time I came to Bedford, I knew that the sermon would be about a particular form of justice that is about relationship with and among people, about community, about the values in the particular affirmationt we recite. I don’t expect anyone to think of it in the terms of my specific religious background, but it kept calling me back; and when my family moved, I would say, occasionally, “I really mean to get back to Bedford”, but never managed it, not before that oldest child started asking me all these questions. And I said, “I know where to go for questions.” And so we’ve been back.
Last week, Joshua read a bit of the Book of Amos, saying, “Let justice roll down like the waters.” And it has been quite a summer, looking at the world, things falling apart in so many ways, but we can look for the waters to come. We can look, and we can dig the channels to get it flowing to our fields and grow good things, and we can do the work to find them and help them flow.
Because this I believe: that the world is made good. That every summer’s falling apart, that every plunge into darkness, has in it the chance to find the waters, to clear away the debris, and to be reborn. That dawn will come again, and so will the chance for things to grow. And that it is our responsibility, as human beings, as a community of people, to make space for the waters to flow, to drink deep, and to make certain that nobody goes thirsty.
Happy new year. May the promise of the waters coming sustain you through the summers in your life, and the certainty of dawn carry you through the dark nights of the soul. Drink deep.