Religious Exploration Blog – May 2013

Our worship theme for May is “I’m Gonna Learn.” So, what have our children been learning? Well, you should probably ask them and hopefully there are a bunch of things they have been learning. But there is one lesson about which I feel particularly good, a lesson that social work Professor and researcher Brene Brown puts like this: “Feeling vulnerable, imperfect, and afraid is human. It’s when we lose our capacity to hold space for these struggles that we become dangerous.”
During one of our recent Sunday worship circles, one of the children shared real tears of sadness with us– his favorite restaurant had burned down. As he shared this news, his lips quivered and sobs filled the circle. The children have been sharing various things in our weekly worship circle over the course of this year– but this is the first time a child chose to share and embody his vulnerability and fragility so openly.
In these moments, I know many of us may feel the need to urgently react, to reassure him that it’s okay, that they will probably build another restaurant, maybe one that is even better. Perhaps this is true, but I think it’s important not to react so quickly with reassurances. Being human means feeling sad and vulnerable, as well as strong and happy. For me, religious community is one of that last places in our culture where we can have an opportunity to feel and experience vulnerability, imperfection, and fear without needing to ‘fix it,’ a place where the there is nothing ‘wrong’ with our normal human experiences of loss, fear, and sadness. These emotions are part of our human experience that we too often, I think, try to repress and squelch down. But it’s this repression and squelching which can make our feelings dangerous, to ourselves and others. What do I hope our religious community can teach our children about feelings of vulnerability, imperfection, fear and sadness? That is okay to have them and it is important to share them in a place like our worship circle, where we light candles and place shells on our altar to remember our joys and our sorrows; where we embrace our full humanity and support each other as we make it through this complicated thing we call life.