My heart went into full flutter on hearing that my once stuffy birth church was introducing an initiative designed around Krista Tippett`s Civil Conversations Project. O joy! O rapture! Clearly my February 2019 was on the same fabulous “Can you believe this happened?” trajectory as January had been.
For almost five years – since just before my very first conference in March 2014 – the North Star principle guiding my personal & professional lives has been doing my best to get people connecting with each other. Here was my beloved birth faith, once so seemingly hide-bound, being part of Interfaith Philadelphia’s version of Krista’s Civil Conversations!
Sunday a week ago was an interesting introduction, using as its core theme something that, as a Krista devotee, left me a bit baffled, but I went with it & was richly rewarded by the evening’s large & small group discussions.
This past Sunday, John & I went to the New Church LIVE morning service, the first of three related to the Civil Conversations Project (CCP). Pastor Chuck’s talk centered around Interfaith Philadelphia’s core CCP theme – dare to understand.
Found myself remembering Mom, who would have agreed whole-heartedly with Chuck’s message, yet was – unrecognized by herself – daunted by what “daring to understand” means.
Mom, born in 1910, was raised in a time where women were expected to keep a happy home, an edict she took to heart, a message compounded by her self-absorbed widowed mother who expected her middle daughter to make her life work.
Understanding what her surviving parent wanted was essential to Mom; understanding anything about Gran was not. I’ll go farther – – understanding her mother would have made mine terribly unhappy, as Rena Davis Reynolds was one hot mess of a human. From an early age, Mom found that the emotionally safest route was knowing what a person wanted & staying clear from understanding the person..
I have no idea when Mom started equating understanding with agreement, a trait I found frustrating exasperating arrggghhh. For most of our almost fifty years together, Mom could not get her head around being able to understand something that differed from her personal beliefs. Mom had children with complex challenges yet she reduced things to the simplest factors. It didn’t matter if the stories she told herself had any grounding in reality – – if they made life palpable, they registered as reality.
Mom would have loved Chuck’s talk, might have written him a note expressing appreciation. But would she have understood daring to understand? Could she have gleaned the possibility that she could truly understand an opposing belief without sacrificing her own?
I learned a lot from seeing how my mother experienced the concept of understanding, but what made them good, uplifting lessons is the reality that Mom DID ultimately dare to understand. For most of her life, she thought that we are meant to see ONLY the good, smiley face things in others, that dark things should be ignored or reframed as sunny.
In 1998, my mother – Katharine Reynolds Lockhart – – dared to understand by taking steps to understand herself better. She sought to understand her older children as they were at that moment, rather than see them them through the sweet soft lens of childhood. To her last day, Mom found it hard to see the person rather than her imagined ideal, but she recognized that & did her best to move past it, to see love accept us as we were, not as she wanted.
Mom was always tougher, more resilient than she gave herself credit for, although by her final years, she could see & dare to understand that she was & always had been a total badass.
Something that Chuck’s talk – he only had 30 minutes – left out that I consider essential is that to take the dare to understand, we need to step back, detach from our SELF & hear without attachment to our own history.
That’s something learned from Mom, who for most of her life dragged her past history with her, like Marley’s chains. It was when she stopped being daunted by daring to understand that Mom could step out of being enmeshed with others & her own past, when Gran’s venomous voice stopped dripping in her ear, when she was freed to be simply in the now, hearing what she she heard, experiencing what was present to be experienced.
Finally, here’s a great aha gained from my mother – – when it comes to daring to understand, the most important, most daunting person to see accept love is ourself.