What Does It Mean To Be
A People of  Becoming?

Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real… It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time.”

Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

It’s become popular in our society to talk about spiritual journeys as a process of living into your full or true self, of letting the authentic seed inside you unfold. We UU’s agree. We even enshrined it in our principles that celebrate each of our unique seeds (inherent worth) and unique journeys (a free and responsible search).

At the same time, there’s something deep within UUism that pushes in the opposite direction. Historically, we’ve been “leavers” –  people who struggled not so much to find ourselves but to untangle ourselves from the religious identities we were given. Our spiritual journeys did not begin with a blank slate; they began with the hunger to wipe that slate clean and begin anew.

So we have this important awareness that spiritual journeys are not simply about unfolding your true self, but also about untangling from your old self. We agree with Albert Schweitzer who wrote:

“The path of awakening is not about becoming who you are. Rather it is about unbecoming who you are not.”

Which means we are also sensitive to the fact that most spiritual journeys begin with a goodbye -a separation, a decision to walk away. We know that the first step is often laced with mourning, difficult endings and, all too often, isolation. We know that “unbecoming” is not easy work.

We also know that it isn’t a one-time thing. We find ourselves routinely tempted into and thus tangled up in all kinds of identities and journeys that aren’t truly ours. “Unbecoming who you are not” is a journey we walk every day, over and over again.

So what does all this mean for us this month? Well, first, it’s an important reminder that we’re not just here to help each other hold steady and persevere on our current paths. Often our primary gift is to help each other find and take the exit ramps.

It also means remembering that being a people of becoming involves tenderness. We are here not just to make room for each other’s unique stories; we are also here to make room for each other’s pain. Again, “unbecoming who you are not” involves bravely walking away, enduring isolation and navigating grief. And so, if we are going to complete our journeys of unbecoming and becoming anew, we’re definitely going to need pit stops of kindness and tenderness along the way.

May this month be a time of pulling into one of those pit stops, together. Let the unraveling begin!

– Courtesy of Soul Matters Sharing Circle  a UU theme-based ministry program

Spiritual Exercises

Five Pictures of Becoming

As we age, our understanding of becoming shifts; it’s a bit less about where we’re headed and more about where we’ve been. Our concern with our “emerging self” lessens and is replaced with thoughts about our “whole self.” We don’t simply picture ourselves as who we are and who we hope to be, but instead as all of who we’ve been. So this month get in touch with the wholeness of who you are by finding 5 pictures of who you have been!

Here’s some guidance: Don’t just find any old 5 pictures. Instead find five pictures that capture five key stages/chapters of your life, five chapters that are key to who you are. For instance, a picture of you as the catcher on your pee wee baseball team, you at college graduation, you during your college gap year, your marriage, you and your first kid, you during your struggle with illness, when you learned guitar at 50, you at the funeral of your mother or best friend, you walking in your favorite part of the woods. The goal is not only to capture pieces of you, but to pull them together in one space. (For you creative folks, consider using them to create a collage!)

When you are done, spend some time with all of them. What do you see in the wholeness of the pictures that you may not have noticed before when looking at them all by themselves? How do they tell the story of who you are? Where’s the through line? Where’s the bend in the road that says so much about you? How does each picture still live in you? What message or invitation do they have for the “emerging you”?

Bonus Task: Find one more picture, one that represents that “emerging you” – the you that is just now joining the story.


Questions for Reflection

  1. When was the day you first welcomed in the person you would become?
  2. Is it possible that you have actually become what your 6 year old self imagined you be, perhaps in a totally unexpected form?
  3. Many of us mark the first day of our becoming as the time when we discovered one of our core passions. When did you discover your first passion? How has it grown and morphed over the years? How are you being called to rekindle it anew?
  4. What are you doing to ensure that you don’t become a person who has regrets?
  5. You are rightly proud of having become such a responsible person. Is it time to allow your reckless side to grow just a little? What might be a way to do that this month?

What is your question?

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