Life Uncommon by Jewel has long been one of my favourite songs. I find the lyrics inspiring and moving and full of hope.
And lend our voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength to that which we wish to be free from
Fill our lives with love and bravery, and we shall lead a life uncommon.
The chorus starts out using the pronouns you and your but by the end, we hear the more inclusive our and we throughout. I love that movement from the individual to collective. The acknowledgement that we cannot just tell others how to live, we must live our own words. That whole practice what we preach idea. Which, as most anyone can attest, is easier said than done!
In her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott wrote:
Why couldn't Jesus command us to obsess over everything, to try to control and manipulate people, to try not to breathe at all, or to pay attention, stomp away to brood when people annoy us, and then eat a big bag of Hershey's Kisses in bed?
I laughed when I read that. And then I read it again and thought about what we - those like me, and like Lamott, who name ourselves Christian - are called to be as disciples of Jesus. Certainly we are not called to live lives of selfishness and indulgence (although eating chocolate in bed on occasion is not a bad thing!) We are called to love one another.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34
And that is not always easy. Loving as Jesus loved requires that we stretch ourselves way outside of our comfort zones. It requires that we take risks, physical and/or spiritual, as we stand up for the powerless, speak out for the silenced, practice radical hospitality. It requires a shift in attitude, leaving behind our individual wants and instead focussing on the needs of our community, both local and global. Such a shift can be challenging, especially in our western culture where we are bombarded with messages to consume and accumulate more, more, more. An appendix on the context of the UCCan's Song of Faith describes our market economy thus:
We live in a culture in which economics (commerce, commodities, consumption) governs what we count as important. The economic world view is so pervasive that we are barely aware of its impact on our relationships, values, identities, and understanding of church. Many find their spiritual hunger co-opted by the culture of consumption. The dominant mindset commodifies the world, reducing it to objects merely to be manipulated and controlled. Many find themselves feeling impoverished in a society of affluence, leaving them indifferent to real poverty.
Impoverished in a society of affluence...I believe that truly is a pervasive feeling in our society. It's hard to avoid under the weight of the debt loads many of us carry. I feel that way myself when looking at the state of my own finances! But I keep reminded myself that I am, in fact, very wealthy compared to much of the world's population and indeed, even compared to many of my fellow Canadians.
Valerie and I attended a film screening a few weeks ago, of a film called Poor No More. It was eye opening to hear the stories of Canada's working poor, and learn that this is a growing problem in a country so teeming with abundance as is ours. One of the stories was of a woman named Vicki, who had to go for her chemotherapy treatments on her lunchbreak because, even after 12 years with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (a corporation with revenues of $4 billion), she still did not qualify for paid sick leave and couldn't afford to take time off for her treatments. I found that shocking and deeply disturbing. The film offered some ideas around fixing the issue of working poor and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in our country, including an overview of the Swedish economic model, which appeals greatly to me. (There's an interesting article in The Swedish Wire about Americans' view of this model.)
Of course, I don't have the answers to poverty or the other problems in our world, but that doesn't mean I will stop trying to do what I can, even if that means stepping far outside the boundaries of my own comfort zone. Fill our lives with love and bravery and we shall lead a life uncommon.