With God All Things Are Possible
“Wow, she’s a really good dancer! Look at how she coordinates her moves to the rhythm of the music.” At one time or another, many people have watched a skilled dancer and had a similar thought, perhaps wishing that they, too, could dance with such grace. In this fourth talk in her series, Dare to Dance Again, Rev. Joanne points out that while we may look with admiration, and perhaps a bit of envy, at how others dance, sometimes there is more to the story.
Recounting a time when she observed a skilled couple dancing to a particular song – each step carefully taken, the partners moving as one – she tells us that when the next song was played, the couple again danced very gracefully and in unison, but using the exact same steps, the same moves. While there is nothing inherently wrong about doing that, it serves as a metaphor for how in life, we too sometimes make the same “dance moves” regardless of what music is playing.
When we greet one another, often we will begin a conversation with “how are you?” A standard reply, either to simply be polite and not actually wanting to share how we really are we reply, “I’m fine thanks, and you?” Sometimes we actually are fine and sometimes not. Rev. Joanne tells us about a time when greeting a supervisor at work one day, she asked him, “how are you?” Expecting him to say simply “I’m fine,” he instead said “I’m excellent!” At the time she had no reason to believe that was not true, but soon after she learned that he was going through a messy divorce. Was he actually excellent, or merely acting in a way that he was expected to show up? she wondered. Psychologists might offer any number of explanations for such a reply. In addition to his showing up in a way that he felt he was expected to, other reasons may be denial of the pain of the situation, acknowledging his pain but attempting to suppress it, or that he actually was excellent and pleased to be getting divorced.
We all go through stormy periods in our lives. Rev. Joanne tells us that the umbrellas displayed on stage during this series serve as a reminder that no matter what we are experiencing in life we have the teachings and tools to protect us, so that we can truly dance no matter whatever is going on around us. However, she is also very clear in saying that using these teachings and tools does not mean we are ignoring the facts about what is actually happening.
Today is Mother’s Day. Attendance at Unity Spiritual Center on Mother’s Day is traditionally lower than on other Sundays. This may be because people have plans with their families and their schedules are too filled with those activities. But Rev. Joanne suggests that another reason may be that Mother’s Day is a challenging day for some people. Perhaps they do not or did not have a positive relationship with their own mother, or if they are a mother themselves their relationship with their children is not what they would like it to be. For others it may be that their mother may have recently died and they are feeling that pain. Or heaven forbid they lost a child, and Mother’s Day is a reminder of grief. And some who are not parents may feel regret, disappointment, or sadness because of that. Regardless of the reason, not wanting to attend services on Mother’s Day may be because they do not want to have to put on the “everything is okay” face.
The challenge that Mother’s Day presents for some people is just one example of difficulties in life that we can learn to surmount. As Rev. Joanne tells us, doing so is not a matter of denying what we are feeling or simply toughening up, but rather when we acknowledge whatever it is we are experiencing, allowing ourselves to feels those emotions, and allow the Spirit of God within us to be our guide, we can learn to dance within our experiences without having to rely on something outside of ourselves or to show up in a certain way.
Unity does not give a simple template for dealing with challenges that says, “here you go, just follow this and you’ll be good and nothing challenging will ever happen again,” Rev. Joanne tells us. Rather, she invites us to remember that we always have the guidance within us that guides our dance steps in Truth, authenticity and vulnerability no matter what is occurring in our lives and to show up for one another in that way.
Many of the Psalms tell of what the writer was feeling in their life. Quoting from Psalm 22, Rev. Joanne explains how the psalmist begins by acknowledging the pain and suffering he is experiencing, lamenting the fact that he feels that God has actually abandoned him. But his cries of woe gradually turn to acknowledging that God actually is with him, and that by trusting in “He who brought me out of the womb” that prosperity will be his. She says that this psalm serves as an example for us of how we must not stay stuck in the problem but come back to the Truth.
She says, we do not need to show up in a certain way - not because we do not want people to be uncomfortable around us, not because we are not feeling quite right, not because we think our life has to be perfect so that others see only the perfection – but because we in our lives want to experience that presence of God within no matter what, and it is for that that we do not stay stuck in whatever we are feeling.
Whenever we allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that we are feeling, and center into the Christ Spirit at least two things can happen: 1) We can learn to dance no matter what, as already described, but also 2) we can recognize with honesty what role we have played in creating the experience and take the necessary steps to change.
Many situations in life do happen independent of our control. But for many things we have a great deal of control. I believe one reason for people’s reluctance to “go within” to discover the Truth is that they know that when they go there they will find that they bear a good deal of responsibility for their situation. There is always a payoff for staying stuck in situations we can do something about but choose not to - remaining safe instead of risking failure, gaining sympathy from others for our “plight,” being able to blame others for our difficulties, or simply laziness.
Rev. Joanne reminds us that Unity teaches that everyone has the Power of Wisdom within them to guide their steps, so that no matter what we are going through we will be able to discover the next best thought to hold, best word, best action. She tells us that Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore (1854-1948) says in his book Keep a True Lent1 that there are two ways to get to understanding.
There are two ways to get understanding. One is to follow the guidance of the Spirit that dwells within, and the other is to go blindly ahead and learn by hard experience. These two ways are open to everyone. It is recognized by the man who has had experience that he can advise the one who has not and thus save him the laborious steps of that rocky road. In the light of omnipresent intelligence, is there not One who knows all things, all roads, all combinations, and what will be the outcome of every one?
Rev. Joanne asks us to consider if we can know that in any given moment that whatever we are going through is the perfect opportunity to know God here and now, to dance the dance of life and to let God be the inspiration behind our dancing? She reminds of of the old saying, “the way you do anything is the way you do everything.” If we have a reluctance to dance, where else may we be holding back in life? Fillmore says that we can show up either from a place of hard experience or from the place that God gives the dance a sense of purpose. When we go within and allow ourselves to be still long enough, we will hear what God is inspiring us to do, not what someone else tells us or wants us to do.
We must recognize that when we go within, Rev. Joanne says, that we will experience good feelings such as joy and abundance, but also the uncomfortableness of God stretching us in ways we never imagined. She encourages us not to let the uncomfortableness stop us from doing so.
Each week during this series, Rev. Joanne has shared a story of a person whose actions illustrate the spiritual lesson of the day. This week, she tells us about American contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993). When she was a child, the adults around her recognized her true gift for singing. Displaying her passion for singing, her community of family and friends pooled their resources to provide music lessons for her. In the course of her studies, she gained the attention of a prominent voice teacher Giuseppe Boghetti who gave her further training.
Having matured and displayed the highest level of skill and professionalism, Anderson wanted to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. But in 1939, racial segregation prevented her from doing so. Undeterred, she received the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and instead was able to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939 to an audience of more than 75,000 people.
Anderson had not only an amazing talent for singing (she was also the first Black person to perform for the Metropolitan opera, debuting in 1955) but an indomitable spirit, knowing that with God all things are possible. Rev. Joanne says that we too can be like Anderson. If we listen to our inner guide it will lead us to places we never imagined we could be. Doing so will not guarantee that our lives will now be one of ease and grace without difficulties, but we will know that we have within us everything we need to overcome whatever situation we may be in.
Now Go and Be the Light.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
What transformation is possible as you abide in God and find your groove? This week, practice knowing there is an absolute spirit of Wisdom within you that supports you in discerning the way. Each step is enlightened as you allow that inner Wisdom to guide you. As your day begins, center in that wisdom. Throughout your day, as you go about the activity of the day, invite that inner Wisdom to guide your way. Dance with God's Wisdom this week and allow your transformation to unfold.
1Fillmore, Charles, Keep a True Lent, Unity Books, 1953 (posthumous).