Nurturing our Connections
John Lennon once said, “We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it. “ This is resonant with O’Donohue’s suggestion that the more love we give away, the more love there is. But do we really live like this and love like this? What does it take to nurture love so that it grows and expands?
As I grew up my mom and dad, for as long as I can remember, set aside Wednesday evenings for themselves. No kids. No distractions. My mom insisted on it. When we were little and the family budget tighter, mom and dad would sit at the kitchen table and have a couple of beers and conversation and it was made clear that the kitchen was off limits to the rest of us during their time together. We were not to interrupt them unless it was a life-threatening emergency.
As we got older and mom and dad’s businesses did better, they graduated to having real date nights every Wednesday where they would actually go out for dinner, drinks and conversation. My mom didn’t care if dad didn’t get home until 9:30pm or how long of a day they both had had. She was adamant that they go out and keep this time sacred.
Later my dad told me that he felt that their Wednesday night dates were instrumental in strengthening their relationship, and at times, saving their marriage.
Watching my parents commit to this practice instilled in me the importance of nurturing our relationships. It could have been so easy for them to get caught up in the fray of raising us that their own relationship could have suffered. It happens all the time. Couples start having kids and suddenly all the focus and nurturing is centered on them and 18 years later when the kids leave the house, the couple don’t even know each other any more. It happens as well, to those without children. Work, stress, loss, life itself takes a toll on us. Even friendships suffer from lack of attention.
Somehow it seems that my mom knew if they didn’t tend to their relationship, if they didn’t nurture it, neither would have anything left to give to us. Taking time to care for the relationships that are important to us cannot be underestimated in its power to strengthen the bond of love between us and generate more love in the world.
Too often we act as if love is a scarce commodity, something we better hold onto and protect rather than realizing it is an ever-flowing source and energy that we can tap into. In fact, we approach much of life, consciously and subconsciously from a perspective of scarcity, rather than relying on its abundance.
Believing that there aren’t enough resources, sustenance, and wealth to go around embeds us in thinking and behaviors that not only confine our capacity to share what we have and who we are, but it reinforces our sense of separateness and our sense of self-entitlement.
We see it evidenced in our culture all the time. We go to war because we don’t believe there are enough natural resources for all of us. We rape the rain forests and remove mountain tops just so we can accumulate more wealth and maintain our standard of living without regard to the impact such ruthlessness will have on our children and our children’s children. Policies and politics that propose cuts to social programs that assist the underprivileged often arise out of a scarcity mindset. In our families we even compete for love and attention because we believe there is only a limited amount of it.
Like Gandhi once said, “The earth has enough for everyone’s need, not everyone’s greed.” Greediness comes from the head-trip of scarcity. We believe there isn’t enough for everyone so we squirrel away everything we can for me and mine, even if it means you and yours starve to death.
The truth is that within the fabric of the universe, there is abundance. In every atom and every cell of life, there is vitality and sufficiency.
The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures affirm this in their call for us to leave behind our reactive natures based in scarcity thinking and cultivate trust in the abundance of God, the abundance of the universe, the abundance of life!
Remember JC said, “I’ve come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” In the Hebrew Scriptures the whole story of the Israelite’s freedom journey is full of metaphors about trusting in the abundance of God. In the desert, the wilderness they complained to Moses saying, “We’d rather be Pharaoh’s slaves than be stuck out here in the desert without food and shelter. And then God instructed Moses to strike a rock from which water flowed, and they awoke to manna each morning. And the rule that governed these resources – “Don’t take more than you need.”
The challenge of the spiritual life is to embrace and live from this sense of abundance, deep trust in that there is enough for all of us, so that we can act out of it, rely on it, and live in a way that adds to the abundance of life rather than contributing to its depletion.
The global culture and sinister nature of our egos, however, insist that there is not enough to go around. Consequently, we spend much of our time and energy aggressively accumulating money, prestige, and power in an effort to allay our anxiety that there isn’t enough for us and in the process we become depleted.
Depleted people make good consumers and spectators of life. Satisfied with the status quo we get comfortable taking life’s sweetness without giving any in return.
How many parents do you know that buy things for their children out of a feeling of guilt, somehow thinking it makes up for the time not spent together? How many of us stay tied up in unhealthy relationships, dysfunctional jobs, or debilitating addictions because we’re so depleted or fearful that there’s nothing else out there that we don’t give ourselves the time or have the energy to make a different choice or imagine a different reality for ourselves? The feelings and consequences of depletion are real, but they are largely perpetuated by an illusion of lack. (I don’t have enough or I am not enough.)
This feeling of scarcity is a powerful motivator, because it’s based in fear, but it will NEVER motivate us to be more loving, more generous, more of who we are called to be. Only trusting in the abundance of the universe will do that.
Our challenge as spiritual people and a spiritual community is to think of better and more ways to mediate the bodily reality of abundance so that we can break the head-trip of scarcity that impels us to ravage the earth rather than care for it and treat one another like competitors rather than friends. We don’t just believe there is a finite amount of resources. We act as if love, mercy and compassion are in short supply too. And so we keep to ourselves and mind our business.
Consequently, our hearts harden and the world becomes more brittle, broken and bound by judgment, rather than released through love, softened by mercy and blanketed in peace.
It’s scarcity that keeps churches from ordaining women, and the public from allowing GLBT people the same rights as others. It’s scarcity that leads to the violence on our streets and wars around the globe. It’s scarcity that leaves some relegated to the world’s ghettos and others scratching and clawing to get to the top of the food chain. Whenever we feel a need to exclude others, we are likely acting out from a sense of scarcity.
There is a direct link between embracing an ideology of scarcity and living from our ego nature rather than our divine nature. Our ego is only concerned about me and mine, rationalizes selfishness and settles for that which is comfortable rather than that which nurtures our growth.
Our divine nature or highest Self is connected with the Source of creation and is part of the flow and vitality of life. It is the realization that we are part and parcel of All That Is and cannot be disconnected from it. “All That Is” is another name for God, for the Infinite, unending, ever-flowing energy of the Universe.
Moving out of the mindset of scarcity and into the flow of abundance is essential to nurturing our relationships, and transforming our culture and changing our world. As long as we believe there isn’t enough, we will move through life trying to keep everything for ourselves, for me and mine, for my family, my nation. But if we can trust that there is MORE than enough, even if we don’t know where it will come from, we will be more likely to share what we have.
Sharing is the key to our transformation and unearthing our divine nature. But not all sharing is the same. A dollar given with the conscious desire to grow, to nurture our relationships and affirm the unity of life is an act of transformative sharing. A bequest of a million dollars, given for self-glorification, fame and additional power, is not. What distinguishes ordinary sharing from transformative sharing has nothing to do with what’s being shared. The consciousness and the difficulty behind it determine its payload of light, its power to generate more abundance within us and the world, not the amount or size of the gift.
It’s the principle of growth. The barbell we lift easily doesn’t build strength as quickly as the barbell lifted with struggle. Being kind, giving to charity, and a handing our change to the homeless guy on the corner are all giving acts, but they are embedded safely in our comfort zone, so the biceps of our divine nature grows only a little.
Sharing unreasonably, unexpectedly, when it’s a sacrifice to do so – that’s when we start to realize and become who we REALLY are – nurturers, givers, made in the image of God, and the life-giving universe that is the cause and source of our lives. Sharing who we are and what we have not to get anything in return but simply for the sake of sharing, because there is joy in doing so, is the nature of the universe, the nature of God and our own divine essence.
But unless we reject the ideology of scarcity, in which we are all more or less encased, and ground ourselves in the conviction that God/Universe is a gift that keeps on giving wars will go on, public policy will continue to penalize the poor and reward the wealthy, and our relationships will wither from selfishness and perceived lack.
I don’t believe for a minute that the point of the spiritual life is to worship God. It’s to become like God, to become radical nurturers of life, generous in love, mercy and compassion so that you and I, TLCUU, and all of creation will be brought into balance, cared for with tenderness, and understood as one web of sacred unity. The quality of our lives and the future of our planet depend on our embracing this transformation and shift in consciousness. Let’s begin today because the more love we give the more love there will be in the world. I can’t think of anything the world needs more.