“I bet you have said that to me many times over the years, but it is only just now registering as important.”
It was a thoughtful exchange between spouses, long married. An acknowledgement, a validation.
And there was an appreciation on both sides of that exchange—appreciation for the willingness to remain open to one another, to learn together and from one another about how the world is experienced and perceived.
It happens in our long-term congregational relationships, too. When we practice taking responsibility for our own learning and growth; when we choose to remain in messy relationship even when we’re disappointed or frustrated; when we listen when others offer observation; when we integrate new insight into our own behavior.
Then we notice that over time that, with this mindset of openness and curiosity, the relationship deepens and grows.
Too often, I have been quick to judge and reject people based on a single interaction, a glimpse of one aspect of their identity—especially when they’re someone I know only from a distance. And I know I don’t have to know or like or respect everyone I encounter. But here in religious community, we’ve made a covenantal promise to be in relationship—to nurture each other, to celebrate our beautiful diversity, to struggle together—even when we tire of repeating ourselves.
And I certainly have had my fair share of experiences—especially at UUCC—that make me grateful for others not giving up on me. Several years ago, for example, I told a UUCC leader that I had experienced a dynamic that helped me understand a frustration that this leader had been expressing to me for years. I was so proud of myself for finally “getting it”. Their response was gentle and measured—they resisted what must have been a strong urge to say, “I told you so, Paige!”—but my enthusiasm was a disappointment to them. Why couldn’t I have just believed them, trusting their perspective, instead of having to experience the difficulty for myself before validating its veracity?
And I know I’m going to keep messing up, wishing I “got it” more quickly … and sometimes wishing others would, too. But after twenty years, I sure am grateful you haven’t given up on me, UUCC. Even when it takes a while for your lessons to sink in.
I wonder what we’ll learn together next.
With love and gratitude,