I'd like to speak tonight about reconciliation from a different perspective. A perspective that begins, not with the relationships we have with the other, but with the relationship we have with the self. For, if reconciliation is about coming together, that coming together must being with the very different parts of the self.
Any person in her right mind will agree that the self is always at war. It pushes and pulls. It grabs and releases. It holds on then lets go. It agrees then disagrees. The self can at one time want to live a life of ease and simplicity, and then pick up the computer and go on a shopping binge. The self can want a life free of competition and comparison, and in the same moment pick up the phone to see how many likes he has on a Facebook post. The self can crave to be free from the desire to do harm to self, while simultaneously doing that which is harmful. The self is always at war.
The starting point for reconciliation, then, is the self. Our own lives become the training ground for coming together. How can humanity expect to come together with each other, if we are unaware of the coming apart of the self? How can humanity come together with hands that are open and receptive, as long as we are unaware of the warring voices in our own heads and our own lives.
This is why our practices of prayer and meditation are important. These practices call us to look at ourselves with honesty. When we pray, when we practice meditation, we enter into spaces of honesty. The first observation to make is that we are all beautifully and wonderfully made, but as with anything beautiful, it can be equally complex. We are complex creatures, and we can easily turn a blind eye to the places of violence in our own interior landscapes. This is why our faith communities are so important.
In our faith communities, we learn practices and skills that help us look at these places of danger. Our faith communities support our journeys into and through frightening places. Our faith communities create the supportive environment in which to distinguish the true self from the false self. In these holy places, we might even face the startling reality that we are not the center of our own universe.
Reconciliation must begin in a place of brutal honesty. It must begin with the realization that our own inner fears and our own inner struggles and our own inner wars are where fear and division begin. A coming together must begin with a reconciliation of the parts of our lives that are unraveling. And most people aren't skillful enough or strong enough to do that work alone. As David Brooks says, "No person can achieve self-mastery on his or her own. . . Everyone needs redemptive assistance from outside - from family, friends, ancestors, rules, traditions, institutions, exemplars, and, for believers, God. We all need people to tell us when we are wrong, to advise us on how to do right, and to encourage, support, arouse, cooperate, and inspire us along the way" (The Road to Character, p. 12-13).
We don't like to look at the self, and we don't like to ask for help, but I am convinced that much of the violence of the world could be avoided if people were given the space to look honestly at themselves and explore and own their own imperfections, insecurities, and fears. Reconciliation, then, must begin with an examination of the interior life. I like to imagine our faith communities as those spaces, schools, wombs of prayer and stillness that birth right thinking and acting. Our faith communities reflect what should be happening on the inside, giving voice to that which we forget - that which is hard to name or face. Our faith communities remind us that our inner work is as important and worthwhile as the work "out there."
In preparation for our time tonight, I've spent some time asking others, "What is the opposite of a weapon?"
My favorite response: "a life preserver."
But could it be that the opposite of a weapon is reconciliation? For reconciliation seeks to do the opposite of a weapon. Whereas weapons separate us, reconciliation seeks to bring us together. Weapons drive us further and further apart, whereas reconciliation pulls us closer. Reconciliation calls us to drop that which separates us. It is the ongoing, moment-to-moment work of naming that we are different, but not separate.
Reconciliation is a slower go and it takes practice. So, here we are. Practicing reconciliation. I am thankful for our communities of faith that are involved in this holy and important work. And I am thankful to be here, together, with you. Tonight, we may be wonderfully and marvelously different, but we are not separate.
May the Holy One prosper the work of our hands, and the work of our hearts.