Sunday, October 11, 2015

Walking a separate path does not mean you are alone

For nearly two years on Sunday mornings, my daughter Katie and I would haul our night-owl bodies trapped in an early-bird world out of bed so we could go to church. Today I slept in. I don't think Jesus would mind. My relationship with Jesus has never changed, despite the roller coaster ride of a relationship I've had with his followers over the years. I think the great peace hero, Gandhi, says it well:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” --Mahatma Gandhi

Despite the fact that my experiences with people who call themselves Christians have often been negative, I'm trying to keep an open mind. I'm trying to like Christians, even when they don't act very Christ-like. Actually, I'm trying to go one step further. I'm trying to love them. I think Jesus would approve.
Matthew 5:43-48 The Message (MSG) 
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
One of the things I find fascinating about religion is how similar most major religions are. For example, compare the love your enemies quote above, taken from a Christian Bible, to this message from The Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhist monks:
Friends and enemies, from The Dalai Lama 
"I must emphasize again that merely thinking that compassion and reason and patience are good will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practice them. 
 "And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble, So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teacher! 
 "For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind! Also, it is often the case in both personal and public life, that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends."
I've had a falling out with the congregation at the church Katie and I had been attending these past couple of years. Nothing major. Just differing opinions. We walked along the same path for awhile and now it's time for me to take a detour.

I'm not alone.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
--Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"
It's OK. Church is not the only place to find inspiration to feed my soul. I've been seeing a lot of inspirational messages lately on social media. Here are a few I'd like to share with you.

Here's another one:

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.”
Frida Kahlo

And, this one, from The New York City Fire Department:

I wish all the youth in our nation will have the opportunity to see this video. Please, share it with all the young people you know--gay, straight, bi, trans--we all need to hear this message, to know that we are loved and cherished for who we are, not for how society says we should be.

Here is my message for all the brave peace heroes out there:

Thank you for finding the courage to be who you are and for sharing your stories with others who need to hear this message. Each one of you is an inspiration. Love each other. It's as simple as that.

As the late, great Kurt Vonnegut says: “Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”

Walking a separate path does not mean you are alone. Walk your own path, and respect the paths others walk along.