Former President Jimmy Carter is dying. But, he’s doing it with an unparalleled amount of grace and poise. At his recent press conference to announce his future life plans and update the world on his cancer diagnosis, he smiled a lot and reported that he’d had the most “blessed life” that a person could have hoped for. He identified his marriage to Rosalyn as his single, most important choice. Given the choice of being re-elected to the presidency or accomplishing what the Carter Center has done over the years since he left the presidency, he’d choose the Carter Center legacy. It seems he’s fulfilled his mission, purpose, or assignment here on earth!
I can’t think of a better “place” for a person to be in than that. Surely, he’s not finished living his life as fully as possible, but he’s given us a role model to aspire to. He helped me reframe my life mission and that’s where I’m going with this writing. At age 53, I see my mission as helping people learn to live out their faith commitments in the way that they believe to be congruent with their life goals and who they are.
You don’t have to view the life of faith as I do, only the way you choose. We don’t need to agree on a right way, and we don’t have to try to convince each other to change to our way, either. Moreover, I’m free to bring others to my faith because I believe it’s a wonderfully, transformative tradition. And I’ll carry out my evangelism with great gusto, but if people say “no,” that is well and good for me; even better for them.
What marks the change for me, in case that is not apparent, is that listening to brother Carter has given me a different perspective on my own sense of calling and personal mission. I’ve known that I’ve had the power and drive to change lives all along, but it was only semi-crystallized. I’ve gained a necessary nuance, more impetus for putting my work in the world, and a tangible deliverable needed to drive my energies. I have a new faith origin, or motivation, for my work as a faith educator.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister, my personal mission has been to preach the good news of spiritual transformation through the power and activity of love. A more specific message that I tend to share is that of “interpersonal connection.” I also have a personal investment in growing the UU faithful. The latter does not seem to be an institutional goal, however. The difference now is that while I maintain the aforementioned assignments, I’m re-prioritizing my assignment to something more narrowl-focused.
This coincides with the completion of my upcoming book, Mastering Your Own Faith: Growing in exemplary faith, which is scheduled for a 2016 release date. My book is all about how to carry out your own personal transformation by realizing your faith dreams by re-imagining the meaning of faith, being a part of a faith community, and engaging in spiritual practices. I’m very excited about the book. I just turned in my manuscript to my editor, Mary Benard, at Skinner House, the publishing house in Boston.
Writing the book has enabled me to reflect deeply on my original faith underpinnings, to view my own personal spiritual journey from a birds-eye perspective. I’m not where I used to be. I’ve come a long way from my Christian-atheist upbringing. The fact that I’ve had the journey signals to me that others can do it.
You need to do this. That is, my invitation to you is to help you find your personal faith commitments and live them out fully and confidently, which I believe is one of the most important keys to personal freedom. Living your own faith, whether it is as a UU, like me, which very few people are, humanist, Christian, Buddhist, or others, is the key to a type of freedom hard to describe, unless you have it.
Most of us need some type of spiritual breakthrough to depart from our faith origins of birth, some transformational moment, peak experience, or revelatory learning. I’ve had all of these. That will be the focus of my next post. I’ll go deep into it.
Until then, I’ll be keeping a close watch on the progress of Pres. Carter. I was in Ga. last week, and looking back on it, I wish had taken an excursion to Plains, Ga to attend his Sunday school class. Maybe next time!
Blessings on your journey,