Part 3 of homily given by Karen Smith, June 20 at UUCG:
When preachers and poets talk about listening to our inner voice, they are not advocating that we give in to the dark angel of doubt. They want us to pay attention to the inner voice that guides us to what we know to be good and true. The inner voice is more than an instinct, more than just an automatic reaction. It is also not quite intuition, which I think is more about interacting with thingsother than ourselves. This inner voice moves us toward a recognition of our own inherent worth and dignity, to have compassion and faith in the first human relationship we experience, that of ourselves. The inner voice asserts itself when we are toddlers, causing our parents to suffer through our ‘terrible twos’. It asserts itself more strongly and painfully when we reach adolescence. Peer pressure will challenge the inner voice we have acquired from our parents and we all know that adolescence is a tricky time to navigate. How well we hear our own voice and how well we are heard can impact us for the rest of our lives.
In order to become better at hearing our own voices of light, we need to practice the listening. There are many ways to develop this practice; among them are mindfulness, meditation and prayer. One definition of mindfulness states that it is the practice of paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It is a conscious direction of our awareness that goes hand-in-hand with meditation. Meditation is the practice of quieting the conscious mind in order to experience the center of consciousness within, to move away from the voices that chatter at us. Prayer is another way to practice listening. Some people attribute the voice that answers their prayers to God; others know it to be their own inner voice that they hear. These spiritual practices help us to engage with our spirits, to experience the ultimacy and intimacy that lies within each one of us.
If we are to practice the ministry of affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity, we must first recognize our own worth. We must first affirm ourselves by listening to our inner voices. It is then we can move on to the immense goal of world community, when we have enough love for ourselves and are able to give it away to others.
Rev Jan caught me with her camera one evening after a meeting and asked, for the record, why I was a Unitarian Universalist. That was harder to answer than I would have guessed. I said that I had been one for so long that I didn’t know how not to be one. Rev Jan then asked me another question. She asked why I always referred to our principles when I did a Sunday service. I told her that it was a relief and a joy to have found something in the real world that supported what I knew in my heart to be good and true. This congregation, this denomination, this was of being in the world resonates with my inner voice. I struggle to find balance between my inner voice and those voices outside myself. My inner voice is strengthened by this community, may it be so with you as well.
Why are you drawn to this community? What is your inner voice saying?