My favorite of the 7 principals is the one that says “We believe in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” For me, the freedom to search, even more so – the responsibility to search for truth and meaning was one of the things that knit Unitarian Universalism to my heart. It is the first thing that spoke to me and it continues to speak to me. But it’s hard work.
When I was a Christian, I didn’t spend a lot of time searching. The boundaries were tight, the search for truth and meaning extended only as far as the well-worn leather of my Bible, perhaps supplemented with John Piper, or Max Lucado, or Beth Moore. The Bible held the answers and it was my job to decipher them. Our search, as Christians, was safe and surrounded by sign posts and people showing the way.
When I became a Unitarian, I reveled at first in the absolute freedom to believe anything or everything that I wanted to believe. If I wanted to worship The Shiny Unicorn of Gratitude, there was space for that. If I wanted to continue to incorporate Jesus into my worship, that was ok too. If I wanted to only “worship” my fellow humans and abandon all notions of God, that was ok. The problem for me is that I’ve never been very good at having a lot of options.
I don’t go to Baskin Robbins. The 39 flavors make me crazy. I can’t figure it out and I end up getting vanilla every time. I prefer the Chic-fil-a approach (before the boycott, that is). You get vanilla ice cream in a cone or in a cup. If you’re really living on the wild side, you get a brownie with it.
UU to me feels a little bit like Baskin Robbins sometimes. There are so many choices. And they are depending upon me to be responsible. Given the opportunity, I would probably choose a scoop of each flavor, tasting them all, then feeling incredibly sick later. It was easier to be a Christian. It was easier to have fewer choices and less autonomy. In my fundamentalist background, I had even fewer choices than the average Christian – there was no argument about what was acceptable or unacceptable, it was all pretty black and white.
While my wandering mind refuses to accept that there is an absolute right way to believe, I can accept that there is a best way for me. It’s harder for me to settle on what exactly that best is, but I can keep walking.
When I was a Christian, the only thing I wanted was to throw off my restraints and walk my own path. Get tattoos. Accentuate my vocabulary with curse words. Ask big questions. Find truth in other traditions. Find meaning in other experiences. See the beauty that is humanity and believe that humanity isn’t just failure apart from divinity.
The lost part of UU is the part that finds me despairingly ordering vanilla because I can’t wrap my mind around the choices. The lost part of UU is the hard part of UU for me: I can search, I can read, I can talk and I can listen, but I will always be searching. The lost part of UU is the hard part for me to reconcile – as I learn more and ask questions, I find myself on a winding road with no GPS signal and I wonder whether freedom with inherent responsibility is really all it’s cracked up to be.
So, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God.” God: not defined in the same way now. But I do press on for higher ground. I press on for the mountain top where I can survey my surroundings and make sense of the trees that begin to start looking the same. I press on toward the voices I hear on the path in front of me, toward the traces of humanity I hear calling, toward the smell of a campfire and the promise of food for my soul. I press on past this place where I’m not quite sure if I’m lost or found.
Because being lost isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s almost always a challenge.