University Congregational Church
July 19, 2020
“Reigniting! A Sense of Humility”
Col. 2: 18-19
What comes to your mind when I say the word “new”? If I say that I want to talk about trying “new things” today, what do you think about? What new things would you like to try?
* Would it be an activity… like going to a new place or trying a new sport or some new adventure?
* Would it be a food or some kind of restaurant or type of menu you’ve been wanting to try… like Thai food or something exotic sounding?
* Would it be a new place you would like to go… some adventure you’d like to try such as a safari or a cruise to Antarctica?
* Would you like to try something new like learning a new language, a new art form, a new skill set, a new exercise format, or set a new goal?
When you get down to it, the word new implies something “better”. A new house; a new car; a new job; new clothes… they all sound exciting and fresh. Something new creates a sense of excitement and delight in us.
No matter how old in age we are, hopefully our spirits are young enough to continue to delight in the world around us! I would challenge you to take a moment to think about the new things you might find delight in. If you are inclined, get a piece of paper and start a list.
Some of these things may surprise you. Some of them may give you a glow of satisfaction when you think about them. They may be buried dreams from childhood – things that appealed to a childlike part of yourself, like riding on a firetruck or helping in a hospital or teaching in a foreign country. They may or may not be heady intellectual pursuits. They may or may not be ideas that our egos would deem impressive. Just allow yourself to put aside all ego and practicality as you make your list. Be creative. What are some new things you would find delight in doing?
Edward had a distinguished career as an orthopedic surgeon. He worked many hours but at a certain point in his life, he found something lacking. In his spare time – which was little – he was without pleasure… bored… and not entirely certain who he was outside of his work. He made a list of his interests from his past and a word came up on the list – the word was fish.
Feeling idiotic, Edward made an expedition to an aquarium store in his neighborhood. He admired a tank full of swordtails and another tank housing aggressive angelfish. He found himself spending the better part of an hour with a tank full of tiny neon tetras.
“Can I help you, sir?” the clerk inquired. “Are you starting up a tank?” The question brought a thrill to Edward’s heart. He could start a tank, he realized.
“Yes,” he answered quickly, “but I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what goes with what.”
“I can help you,” the clerk volunteered. “Perhaps you’d like to buy a beginner’s pamphlet?”
“That seems like a good place to start.” And so, he purchased the modest pamphlet and took it home with a bit of glee in his heart. After reading the tips for a first tank, Edward took an expedition to Sea World with his family and on the way home he found himself beginning to plan his tank. Already he could feel his personality and life expanding. It was from the simple task of making a list of simple interests that could cause delight. Our traditional word for today reminds us of this eternal truth…
Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. Colossians 2: 18-19
Today, we are continuing our sermon series based on the book by Julia Cameron about Reigniting! our lives. Our theme today is about humility. Cameron notes that one of the biggest blocks to reigniting our lives is humility. We want our dreams to be fulfilled instantly and perfectly, she says, instead of realizing that they need to be nurtured from the beginning. We must risk appearing foolish and start with courage before we can realize our dreams. And that takes humility. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
There is no such thing as a time that is “too late” to begin a creative endeavor. Creativity is a part of our spiritual DNA – nothing that lessens or fades or disappears. My friend, Nora, who lives in an Assisted Living facility decided last year to become the unofficial activity director at her place. She ordered a helium tank online and some balloons and started gifting balloons to people when it was a special day – tying them on doorknobs with cards everyone had signed. She started putting together little welcome baskets for new residents with hand cream and WSU magnets and tissues. She started a walking group and a puzzle group.
“If the antidote to fear is action, the way to take action – and to outsmart, outrun, or avoid our fear – is to make the action small enough, humble enough, that we are able to take it,” writes Julia Cameron. And she says that the biggest block to creativity is a lack of humility. At first, I was confused by what she meant by humility. As I read on, I realized she was saying that we are afraid to Reignite! our lives because we don’t want to appear foolish and we want to be fulfilled instantly and perfectly. We aren’t humble enough to take a risk. Most of the people who become great in their field had to start out taking the risk of being beginners doing baby steps to learn their field. They did not start at the top.
We must be gentle with ourselves as we gather the courage to name our new ideas, our dreams, whatever we want to do to Reignite! our lives. It is common for things to try to block us or try to scare us out of trying new things. Fear. The unknown. A lack of courage. Even logic can convince us not to try something new. We ask ourselves the “what if” questions. It takes lots of humility to begin a new project, but it is worth it to begin. It is satisfying to create and to allow ourselves to try new things.
We have among us today new parents, Shannon and Marlo! They have been parenting Felicity for more than a year now. But they have now agreed to parent Felicity for a lifetime. This is a new relationship. They have taken the plunge for a new commitment of parenthood that will last the rest of their lives. What a joy! What a challenge! I told them that our family has a hyphenated word for times like this… scary-exciting. One word that encompasses the whole experience. Reigniting! your life is almost always “scary-exciting”!
Take a moment to look at your list of new things you might like to try. Pick one of them to explore. What might be the first step of humility it would require to start on that task? Helen Keller said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.” Every great accomplishment involves many small, ordinary steps.
Trying something new may require asking for help. Rarely do we feel more connected to a higher power than when we ask for help. Asking for help requires humility and it is good practice for our spiritual lives to ask for help. As we age, we like to think we are independent and self-sufficient. We like to think we have what we need. Trying something new can be a spiritual exercise because we must start over with information, and we take on a humble role again. We need others. So, reach out, find a mentor or a teacher, ask for help. It is a spiritual experience.
Name a dream that sounds out of reach. Go ahead – in the private space of your home or your mind – name it. Now, allow yourself to name – and take – the gentlest first step toward it. This step should be tiny – the smaller the better. Can you do that tiny step this week? If you do, the first step will inspire another. And another.