April 20, 2017
Big F, little f, what begins with F?
“Four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff,” says Dr. Seuss.
But I’m thinking of a different F-word a lot recently. F-A-I-L-U-R-E.
Failure, said the Rev. Alma Faith Crawford* to a group of clergy years ago, is The F-word that most haunts many of us.
Big Failures, little failures. Our sense of failure causes embarrassment and shame. Our fear of failure hinders our willingness and ability to act boldly and take healthy risks.
We try to teach our children that mistakes and failures are opportunities for growth and learning, and yet we know how crippling they can be to our self-esteem and our sense of competence.
Lately I’ve had a litany of mostly-little failures running through my head, nagging at me. My lack of follow-through on a task, negatively impacting someone else. A worship decision that fell flat. Carelessly hitting a raw and painful nerve in a loved one. An oversight that left someone feeling invisible. A broken promise.
But there are other F-words, too – ones that remind me that I am not wholly defined by what I perceive to be failures.
Friends. Fidelity. Fun. Forgiveness. Faith.
And it’s that – faith – that sustains me. Faith in our community. Faith in myself. Faith in my relationships. Faith in Life itself.
We are part of a reality greater than ourselves alone, and I have chosen to entrust myself to that greater reality – Life, Love, Ultimacy, God – that calls on me to remain in relationship, to not give in to despair, to live a life that is humbly courageous, to confess and apologize and ask forgiveness, to make choices that affirm life.
So, in the face of fear and failure, I will choose to be faithful – to you, to myself, to love, to life.
Yours in Faith,
* The Rev. Alma Faith Crawford will be the preacher at this year’s Union Service on Sunday, May 7, 2017, at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. She’ll deliver a sermon titled, “Sanity While Black: Enduring Racial Trauma without Losing Our Damn Minds”. The service will begin at 4:00 pm; doors will open at 3:30 – pre-worship concert by orchestra and combined choirs.
Greater Baltimore Unitarian Universalist congregations gather each May to remember the 1819 visit of Rev. William Ellery Channing to Baltimore, where he preached the sermon “Unitarian Christianity”. At this year’s service, worshipers will hear a challenge from the Rev. Alma Faith Crawford, former Professor of Worship Arts at Starr King School for the Ministry (Berkeley, CA) and founding pastor of Church of the Open Door on Chicago’s south side. Crawford shares how racism generated her clinical depression, anxiety disorders and PTSD – and how medical treatments and activism both help and hinder her recovery.