Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme and the state of the church. The theme for April is Becoming. This month’s post is offered by Betty Hartnett.
“Real isn’t how you are made, said the Skin Horse (Velveteen Rabbit, by Shaenon Garrity). It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
In this scenario, both the Skin Horse and the child change. The Skin Horse becomes Real over time as the Child first plays with, and then, loves him. Both are slowly evolving into something better. To be sure, the Skin Horse didn’t have any agency himself (or did he?) to become Real. It’s what happened to him as a result of being there for the child and the child’s love over time. It appears as if the child is not consciously growing his love; his love simply continues as a result of the ongoing close relationship. Sometimes agency is not clear. Sometimes, perhaps, we may not be aware of becoming something different until we are.
Michelle Obama’s explanation of becoming in her book of the same name, resembles that of the Skin Horse. She says, “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” So, although Michelle set achievement goals for herself all through her life, they were inherently the means through which she moved forward into evolving toward a “better self.” It’s her evolving into a better self that gives positive meaning and purpose to her journey, much as the Skin Horse’s journey in his becoming Real.
How about you? As you met challenges and continued on your path to whatever goals you had or whatever you were doing, were you aware that you were on a journey to a “better” self? (There’s always the possibility that a person becomes a “worse” self, but I don’t want to speak of that here. :>)) If you headed an organization, company, church, or a classroom, did you feel yourself becoming a “better” person? Can you identify the steps you took on your journey?
How do we feel as a church? Is our church becoming a “better” church? I don’t have answers, but I think it’s a question worth asking. We seem to have been very focused this year on climate justice and racial justice, as well as homelessness, despite (or perhaps because of) the pandemic. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, would we be “moving forward” as much? We’ve been deprived this past year of seeing each other in person each week, again because of the pandemic. Has this made our church more aware of the lack of justice in our society and the world and more willing to be more engaged in “forward motion” (to use Michelle’s words)? We also know that the whole world has met new challenges this year. Has all of this made us, individually, “better” selves and, collectively, a “better” church? What do you think?
Lastly, as Michelle says, “...the journey doesn’t end.”
— Betty Hartnett
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees