Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Our Great Calling

By Nathan Ryan

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
—Carl Sagan

I still feel stifled trying to talk about my children. Everything I can think to say about them is about how great, amazing, or wonderful they are. But then I stop myself because I know that literally every person ever born was born that perfect and amazing.

Also, I’m still not fully reconciled—nor do I think I will ever be—on the decision to have them. We made a decision to create these two people knowing that living is painful. If everything goes the way we want it to, they will love us, and then they will bury us. That’s the best case scenario. Sadly, we know that many parents weren’t given that option.

Against a sunset, an adult holds up a child with their arms outflung joyfully

What does it mean that, while weighing this, we still decided to bring them into a world that is violent, xenophobic, racist, hateful, polluted, dangerous, and imperfect? I think we have a holy obligation to bring about paradise on this earth, and each generation helps us do that. I’ve enlisted them, without their consent, in this work. Just as every one of us was enlisted in this work without our consent.

I wanted to give them the gift of being alive. I wanted another person to experience the sheer joy, complications, and beauty of this wonderful, imperfect earth and all of its people. So now, the challenge: Can you make the world that should have been when my children were born? For some reason that’s an easier challenge to articulate than the real one: make the world that you and I should have had before we were born.

You are born of the most divine particles. Make the world better because you exist. Go find the person you disagree with the most (or who bothers you the most), and go love the hell out of them. Go have a conversation, bake them a loaf of bread, love them as you love yourself (and if you don’t love yourself, well, love yourself). If these past few years haven’t shown us this is our great calling, I can’t imagine what would.

Prayer

God and that uniting spirit within us all, please help us know we are not alone. Help us know that this week will be hard and heartbreaking for some of us. Please help us know that we are worthy of love and justice. Make us into beacons of hope and justice. Help us to build the world we were promised before we were born. Amen.

About the Author

Nathan Ryan

Rev. Nathan Ryan was called in November 2020 as the Senior Minister of the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge. A Louisiana native, Nathan makes a mean red beans & rice, and believes that good food goes a long way toward world peace.

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