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  • Who is Responsible for What? A Spiritual Exercise

    As we enter autumn, we may find the challenges of the days ahead daunting.  We may even dread some of the changes being asked of us as we move back into our “regular” life responsibilities after what may have been a less demanding summer schedule.  How might God be inviting us to release our fear, apprehension, or anxiety, and see the days ahead as exciting, invigorating, and life giving?

    One of the places we are called to grow spiritually is recognizing the tendency we have to place the problems we face as being “out there” instead of understanding their genesis may be within ourselves.  “Why do you see the speck of sawdust in your brother or sister’s eye and fail to notice the log in your own eye?”  In Matthew 7:3, Jesus names for us the concept of “projection”, disowning parts of ourselves and projecting them out upon others in order to blame them instead of taking our own responsibility for the situation at hand. 

    At times of stress, transition, and change this bigotry and blaming takes shape in hundreds of forms.  It is distressingly easy to focus the problem “out there” and blame and try to fix “the other” while refusing to see how we are part (or even all) of the problem ourselves.  Spiritually, we are asked to “let go” of our usual defenses.

    A spiritual exercise I suggest calls us to take the path of inner truth; taking responsibility for everything that is within us as the “incarnated beings” God has created.  This means looking at what pleases you as well as what you’re ashamed of, seeing the rich person within you and the poor person that also dwells in your very being.  It means having the courage to see the truths within you more honestly.

    Francis of Assisi, the 13th century Christian monk called it “loving the leper within us.”  Only from being hospitable to ourselves can we invite others into a safe, spacious, sincerely caring place.   “If you learn to love the poor one within you, you’ll discover that you have room to have compassion ‘outside’ too, that there’s room in you for others, for those who are different from you, for the least, the lost, the last among your brothers and sisters.

    A spiritual exercise we may engage in as we move into this autumn is to take responsibility for our own realities and the true encounter of ourselves day by day.  We would then consider:  “What is it about myself that I am most inclined to shun?  What if the circle of God’s Love is so vast that even that quality that I want to hide, sometimes even from myself, does not stray outside the bounds of God’s love?  How might I allow God to show me a way of loving those parts of me I have not yet learned to love, thus being transformed by God’s compassion and care?”

    Rev. Dr. Ken Orth, Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction Affiliate, First Congregational Church of Winchester
    Healing Worship Minister, Old South Church in Boston