Finding Courage Together

Don’t be afraid of some change.
Don’t be afraid of some change.
Today will be a joyful day;
enter, rejoice, and come in.
— Louise Ruspini

Have you ever had someone tell you to not be afraid?  Or to not be sad or to not worry or, conversely, to be brave or to hope for the best?  If so, you’ll know that such things are easier said than done.  I’ve found, at least, that I can’t simply will myself into happiness or optimism.  I can find distractions, of course, or I can do things that make me feel better: spending time with loved ones; enjoying a good meal with friends; listening to (or, even better, singing) uplifting music.  But changing one’s attitude is something that takes time and effort.

I don’t know for sure why Louise Ruspini included the verse printed above in her song “Enter, Rejoice, and Come In”.  She wrote both words and music for this popular opening hymn in the 1960s and 70s, when congregations of all denominations were exploring new music for services in a more contemporary style.  The song was inspired by Psalm 100, which calls on people to give thanks, to make a joyful noise, to sing and be glad, but the idea about not being afraid of some change was apparently Ruspini’s own addition.

In a way it makes sense.  Change is an essential part of life, and without change there is only death.  So part of being joyful, of opening our ears to the song of being, of opening our hearts to other people, is having the courage to face the changes that life inevitably brings.  That’s particularly the case since, as the saying goes, the word ‘change’ is for many people spelled L-O-S-S.  But courage isn’t something that just happens because we want it or need it to happen.

Now courage isn’t acting when there is no reason to be afraid.  Rather, courage is doing what must be done because we know it’s right even though we’re afraid.  Courage is about working through pain given the conviction that, by doing so, we will be transformed for the better.  Courage is about taking the risk to blaze a new trail, trusting that the destination is worthy and that others will follow.  Courage is about being willing to leave the security of thinking of paradise as only a future possibility and instead recognize that we never left the Garden of Eden.  Courage is about taking a stand against oppression, even if we ourselves are not being oppressed.  Courage is about challenging those who would keep us afraid.

But courage doesn’t just happen because we want or need it to happen.  Rather, courage happens when we know — not just intellectually, but deep in our hearts — that we are not alone.  This is one of the most important purposes of Unitarian Universalist congregations.  For there are lots of reasons to be afraid in today’s world.  Some fears are natural and serve, thanks to our evolutionary history, to increase our chances of survival.  Other fears are manufactured and serve the profit-making and power-mongering of others.  But if there is one vital message that Unitarian Universalism seeks to convey, it is this:  You are not alone.  None of us is individually called to solve the world’s ills all by ourselves.  None of us is individually responsible for fixing our community’s problems all by ourselves.  Together we can — and, indeed, must — take on these challenges, and when we remember that, then we find our courage.

Take courage, friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear, and the stakes are very high.
But take courage, friends; for deep down, there is another truth:
You are not alone.
— Wayne B. Arnason

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