Minister’s Column April 2023

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for April is resistance. I’m mindful that we often associate resistance with social justice organizing. We resist injustice by rallying, marching, witnessing, testifying, advocating. We resist injustice by speaking truth to power, etc. We organize to resist oppression. We organize to resist violence. We organize to resist hatred. We organize to resist practices and policies that cause harm to the environment. At least we aspire to resist in these ways. For me, such resistance has its roots and inspirations in our first, second and seventh Unitarian Universalist principles:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

And yet I find myself not wanting to limit our reflections on resistance to social and environmental justice organizing. I’m wondering about all the various ways we encounter resistance in our lives and in the natural world. For example, prior to going out for a run, I stretch. When I begin stretching, my muscles resist. They are tight. They are sore. I know they will loosen up in a few minutes, but in the moment they’re telling me something important: start easy, be gentle, go slowly.

Or I think about the way a tree resists a strong wind. It doesn’t stay rigid and upright. It leans. It bends. It waves back and forth. I suspect there’s a life lesson here as well: We’re more likely to stay rooted and whole when we move with the prevailing winds to the best of our ability. We’re more likely to ride out the storm if we have some capacity for bending, some inner flexibility. Resisting is not the same as refusing to bend.

And what about those moments when we’ve said or done something that has caused someone harm? Even if we didn’t intend to cause harm, once we know we have, what do we do? Do we fight the allegation that we’ve caused harm? Do we deny it? Do we double down on what we’ve said or done? That’s certainly one kind of resistance. But such resistance often makes the situation worse. We also have the option to take the allegation seriously, to move or “bend” with it, trying to understand it and, as a way to begin repairing the relationship, saying “I’m sorry.” “What can I do to make things right?” That’s another species of resistance.

I’m mindful that none of us comes into this life easily. The birth process is difficult and painful. Babies make their way into the world, but there is considerable resistance along the way.

Indeed, all new life encounters some degree of resistance. I’m thinking of the noises my chickens make as they lay their eggs. There doesn’t seem to be anything peaceful about it. And I’m thinking more broadly about the arrival of spring. Look closely, new growth finds its way from the nurturing soil up into the air, into the light of day. But it must make its way through the thawing ground. It must break through. It encounters resistance.

So yes, there is a time to resist the powers that be, a time to organize for justice, a time to raise our voices in the struggle for liberation for all people and the Earth. This is one form of resistance. But there are others. The natural world is full of examples. As April and spring make their way into our lives (and we into them), I’d like to invite you to pay attention to the ways you witness resistance in your life and in the world. What lessons does resistance teach? What Wisdom can you draw from it? In what ways are you called to bend and wave in wind?

With love and care,

Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek