Singing It Back

What we try to express as Unitarian Universalists, are these truths:

  • Each of us is unique.
  • Each of us has gifts we were given at birth – we were born with these gifts; they are wired within us.
  • Each of us has the responsibility to apply these talents to the world.
  • Each of us must navigate how to find our place in creation’s fold, while understanding that everyone around us is involved in the very same pursuit.

As David Blanchard has said:

It takes a while for many of us to figure out which is our song, and which is the song that others would like us to sing…Some of us are slow learners. I heard my song not necessarily from doing extraordinary things in exotic places…What came to astound me was not that the song appeared, but that it was always there.

Whatever we believe about the origins of our creation, whatever is our understanding about a Creator, imagining that we each have music that is ours to sing – a song that is echoed back and forth between us and the “other” perhaps – or between us and one another – whatever our theological orientation, this is worth our pondering. Right now, I’m not interested in debating HOW the song got there. I’m interested in unearthing the song that IS there, within each one of us.

Imagine the idea of having a tune that is just our own; a song that lives in our heart and mind that describes us to the world; a song that we sometimes hear the world sing back to us; a song that is there, no matter it be day or night, ready to comfort, sustain, and encourage us. Imagine. And then ask yourself: What’s your song? What does your life echo back to the world?

Nearly a century ago, Rabindrinath Tagore wrote:

I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung.

This Nobel-winning, Hindu poet conjured up for us the image of a person who spends more time “doing” tasks than in “being” his or her true self, living out his or her true song.

Do we take time to hear the song? To answer its call? To join its chorus? For me, churches such as this helps the answer to that question be “yes!”

You have the opportunity to provide one another melodies and harmonies, back beats and refrains, as you each continue on the path in life of trying to be faithful to that which stirs most strongly – or sings most loudly – within you.

One of my heroes, Rev. Jim Wallis of the progressive Christian organization Sojourners, often asks people this pivotal question:

Where do your gifts meet the pressing needs of the world?1

And Mary Oliver says the same thing in her poem, "Summer Day:"

What is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

It’s your turn to answer those very same questions, as you look at one another, the larger community, and this world that holds us all.

The attempt to figure out how best to pay our debt to the world is the challenge that each of us faces, throughout our life journeys. Connecting our gifts with the world’s needs (as Wallis would say) or (as Oliver might put it) justifying our “wild and precious life” with purposeful behavior: this is lifelong work.

Regardless of your years on this earth, what is your life song? What calls out to you from the universe? What melody do you give voice to in return?

A year from now, if I ask you what the melody is that is “most your own,” what do you want the answer to be?

In Blanchard’s words:

They can be…songs of love or of longing, songs of encouragement or of comfort, songs of struggle or of security.

To what will your voices give testimony?

My current calling is to help UUs join their voices with the music this religion of ours can make. My hope for our UU churches is that here, we continue to make room for the various ways our fellow-faithed hear the universe calling out to them. My hope is that we do more than eavesdrop on the tunes our neighbors are echoing back and forth – to and from the world. My hope is that we are moved and shaped into being more honest and faithful Unitarian Universalists by opening ourselves up to the songs that abound.

My hope for you is that next year at this time, you will have a chorus of answers about how the world’s needs and your unique gifts as a faith community can best bless this world.

May these songs grow more steady, more robust, and more certain in the year to come. I, for one, can’t wait to hear how you will sing it back.


Note: David Blanchard's meditation, "Listening for Our Song," in an InSpirit meditation book of the same name.