What You Do Today Can Shape Your Tomorrow
Human language is a very interesting thing. There are many words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same, but depending on context carry different meanings; these are called homographs (as opposed to homophones which are pronounced the same but have different spellings such as too, two, and to). The Twelve Powers are all certainly homographs.
This week, Rev. Joanne continues with the third talk of her six-part series based on the book The Twelve Freedoms1 by Unity minister Phillip Pierson. Discussing what Pierson calls the “Stabilizing” dyad of Strength & Order, it is particularly useful with these two terms to carefully consider what is meant by each.
In the context of The Twelve Powers/Twelve Freedoms, Strength does not refer to physical strength but metaphysical strength. As Rev. Joanne points out, at some time in their life, everyone has looked back on challenges they managed and asked themselves, ‘how did I ever get through that?’ It could have been a serious personal illness, the loss of a loved one, or a severe financial setback. We make our way through life’s ups and downs by using our power of Strength.
Although the Strength we are discussing is not about how much weight we can lift or how fast we can run, we can develop our Strength “muscles” by exercising them in deliberate, intentional ways. Rev. Joanne shares that she gets her strength from a number of sources – prayer, meditation, recreation, connecting in community, and maintaining healthy personal relationships. It is also important, however, to take care of our physical self. That is why as part of her Strength “exercises” Rev. Joanne also includes a healthy diet, getting sufficient sleep, and exercising (actual exercising) on a regular basis.
In this week’s talk, Rev. Joanne provided an excellent metaphor and visual representation of how these supporting elements of Strength can either fill our lives with internal fortitude, or when they are absent, we have a more difficult time adding them to our lives after the presence of challenges appear. Using a glass jar representing our life, sand representing life’s challenges, and stones representing each of these support elements, she demonstrated how if we allow our lives to be filled with challenges without this support in place first, much more sand can fit into the glass jar of our life. But if we place the support stones into the glass jar of our life first, there is much less space for sand to occupy.
This is where the power of Order comes in to support Strength. A common misunderstanding of the power of Order is that if something has occurred in our life, for ill or for good, it was “all in divine order.” If taken to its logical limit, this idea takes away all agency of our own actions, conferring everything to some external Being that manipulates us, or predestined Plan in place that cannot be altered. This is not a Unity idea. Unity teaches that Order is putting in place, in a proper sequence, those elements that support what we want to see grow in our life. This does not mean that if we use the power of Order to establish a healthy support structure in our life that we will not experience challenges. Certainly not. What it does mean is that once support elements are in place, we are much better able to manage whatever life presents to us.
Just as with the other Powers we have discussed in previous weeks (and those that will be discussed in the next three Sunday talks) the powers of Strength and Order are neutral. They are tools. A hammer, saw, or wrench can be used to build or repair, or to destroy or rust if left unused.
A potentially negative aspect of Strength is stubbornness. This could show itself as continuing employment in a job you dislike or failing to change your mind, for fear of having to change your behavior or admit you were wrong.
The power of Order can also have a restricting aspect. We may have a misapprehension that we should not, or cannot, move toward some positive thing in our life until some other thing is in place first. While it is true that some things do in fact require A before B – college degree or professional licensing, for example – we risk limiting ourselves if we fail to recognize that many things in life can be done in a variable sequence or in parallel without ill effects.
Spiritual Strength is persistence and perseverance. Spiritual Order is proper sequencing and adjustment. Although humans have progressed in many, many ways since the time of Aesop 2,500 years ago, much remains the same. Human needs and desires, fears and regrets are timeless and universal across all cultures. The outer trappings may differ from one time or place to another, but we are far more the same than we are different. The famous Greek fabulist sums up in less than seventy words what is often written about at great length in books – where there’s a will there’s a way.
The Crow and the Pitcher - A thirsty Crow comes across a pitcher, which had been full of water. But when it puts beak into the mouth of the pitcher, he cannot reach the water. He keeps trying but then gives up. At last he comes up with an idea. He keeps dropping pebbles into the pitcher, soon the water rises up to the top and his is able to quench his thirst.
Although the Crow did not first fill the pitcher with stones, as Rev. Joanne did in her example, it demonstrates that even when we do find our lives filled with challenges not yet supported by spiritual tools we can, with persistence, obtain what we want and need in our life.
All of these spiritual ideas are wonderful tools. We can know what we want, have the tools and even know how to use them, but it requires action supported by Strength to make anything happen. As usual, Shakespeare had something to say about this too:
If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions. I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.2
This week, I will attempt to be a “good divine” and follow my own instructions and draw upon the power of Strength, supported by Order, and do what is mine to do.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Take time this week to meditate and contemplate the stabilizing dyad of Strength/Order. Consider where you have been persistent in habits that are out of order. Then take action toward bringing order to your thoughts, words, and actions.
1Pierson, Phillip, The Twelve Freedoms: An Understandable Path to Total Freedom, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 16, 2015).
2Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II – Portia to Nerisa.