On Sunday, September 28th, Dan Mosley, professor emeritus at CTS, was our guest speaker in Meeting for Worship. Dan is a minister, consultant, coach, and the author of "Lose, Love, Live - the Spiritual Gifts of Loss and Change". Based on the belief that the deepest dimensions of organizational conflicts are about loss, Dan’s leadership skills have moved many organizations through difficult transitions enabling them to discover barriers that block productivity.
Below is the main body of the message given by Dan Moseley on September 28th:
The trees are changing now, and I love it. I think that I love it more because I know that eventually those leaves will disappear. Eventually they will fall and we will be able to see the naked arms of the branches and the fingers waving in the cold. It’s that way with love isn’t it? When we love something, we can pretty much guarantee that we will not have it forever. That’s the way it is with love, because that’s the way life is. Life is always in change and always in transition. What we fall in love with will eventually change.
When I was a little child I had a ragdoll. My mother had made me a ragdoll. And I loved that ragdoll. I loved it so much that it just fell apart. It had to be washed all the time, because I dragged it through dirt all the time. Eventually it just one day died, I guess, in the washing machine, because I never found it again. I loved that doll, but it passed on.
As a person in high school, I loved basketball. I played basketball and I was getting pretty good and was going to be on the A team. We were practicing and the coach was guarding me and I faked him. It was a good fake. He jumped up and fell on me and broke my back. It ended my basketball career. The next year, after I got back, my senior year, they let me be chaplain and enforcer. That is, when they wanted somebody fouled, I was the one who got to go in and foul them, so I ended up with my name in the paper. I loved basketball, but it ended.
I loved Donna, my first love. One day she decided that it was over and so it ended. That’s the way it is with love. That’s the way it is with life. Life is filled with energy when we love things and that’s what enables us to be vital, to experience the fullness of life. We love, we care, we have passion for. But eventually, all there is, disappears. Even if it doesn’t die, it changes.
I loved my children when they were babies, but they turned two, and it was a lot harder, and I had to learn to love them again in a different way. And then when they turned five and went away to school it was a different thing entirely.
Susan Wilshire wrote a book about the death of her brother from AIDS. In her book she says, “Life is fair. Eventually it breaks everybody’s heart. Eventually our hearts will be broken. Eventually we will be wounded. If we love, it will hurt. If we live, there will be pain. Now some people, after their hearts have been broken, decide that maybe they don’t want to love again, maybe they don’t want to put themselves out there again and fall in love with something because they know intuitively that it’s going to disappear. And that’s one option, but the option to not love is the option to not live. Because it is only our ability to love that enables us to be alive.
Yesterday when I met with 25 or so members of this congregation to talk about discovering God in a changing world and wondering amongst ourselves what the future holds for us, we explored the fact that if we are people of faith, we know that God desires life. God desires our life. God desires life for all, abundance, fullness of life. That’s what God desires, and so, as people of faith, it’s really not an option to choose not to love again. Sometimes we have to go into ourselves and we have to nurse the broken heart, and sometimes we cannot be out there with others when we are wounded because we are too vulnerable. Eventually, as people of faith, as the healing presence of God’s grace softens our heart again, and gives us courage, we have the capacity, and respond again, to love, to commit. To be faithful, to care, passionately.
How do you do that? How do you get through the pain? How do you get through the losses of life in a way that you can open up to the newness of life that’s possible? To the new love that God is offering to you in the next day of your life and the next day of your life? How do you get through that? That’s really what it’s about. That’s what it is to live well, to figure out how to grieve well, how to learn to live in the absence of something that matters deeply to you.
Graceful living is grieving living, the capacity to explore what it is that has been lost in a way that opens us to the future that God is offering to us. We talked yesterday about a map helping us to do that, and it’s in the book that I’ve written, ‘Lose, Love, Live: The Spiritual Gifts of Loss and Change’. It’s a map that lines out the fact, and acknowledges the truth, that we have had losses, that we have had pain, and it invites us to experience the fullness of that loss and that pain. Because in so doing we experience the fullness of the gift of life that God has granted to us. Pain represents love. We have pain in our hearts only when that which we love disappears. So pain is a reflection of the depth of love. We have to deal with that. We have to open ourselves to that, because it teaches us about God. It teaches us about God’s gift of grace.
On this map, we work our way through this pain. We work our way through the guilt and through the anger. We work our way through that in order to be forgiven and to experience the forgiving grace of God so that we are free from the power of that pain to control the future. That’s what forgiveness is all about, the capacity to become free to live again in the absence of that which we have lost. Change is inevitable, and therefore that which we have lost is inevitable. The question is not whether we’re going to lose that which we love, the question is how do we grieve that loss so that we can love again? So that we can live again?
During the retreats that we are having here, the first one yesterday and through 2015 there will be three more retreats, we will be looking at the spiritual disciplines that enable us to pay attention to our own journey so that we can learn what God is doing inside of us. So that we can learn from our experience what God is calling us to do and be in the future. Yesterday we looked at silence. I thought the way the children handled that silence was remarkable. I mean, they were much more silent than I could be. All the children inside of me when I get silent start hitting each other and bumping into each other and yelling at each other. Inside me, my children have a hard time quieting down.
Sometimes when I get silent, the chaos of my own life overtakes me, and I don’t know what to do with that. Because what I want to do when I get silent is I want to quiet all these voices of the chaos of my past, my memory. I want to quiet the voices of my culture that just inundate me all the time, the noise of the radio, the noise of the computer, the noise of the music, the noise of people. I want to quiet that noise. I want to calm the noise of the future that just keeps nagging at me, saying, ‘You’ve got to remember what you have to do tomorrow, and you’ve got to remember that you’ve got to take care of these things tomorrow.’ I’ve got to quiet those voices so that I can listen. Listen to how God whispers through the depth of my soul.
Silence is one of the classic Christian disciplines. To be quiet, and to wait. To wait for God to come and speak to us and call us forward into the future with courage. This is not just classic Christian tradition, but this is a tradition that the Quakers have stewarded well for us. It is good to be among you because of the lack of noise, because of your creating space for God to emerge in the depths of the soul. We have a promise that when we do that, when we wait, Jesus told the disciples, “Go to Jerusalem and wait. Sit expectantly and wait, for God is going to baptize you with a spirit that is a new spirit.”
The interesting thing about our story of the Christian faith is that the people who knew Jesus, and followed Jesus, loved Jesus. They loved Jesus desperately. They loved Jesus humanly. They denied Jesus, and they ran from him. They couldn’t sit with him. But they were human and they loved him. And he died. And even though they experienced his presence again, at one point he disappeared into Heaven. In other words, even the memory of his physical presence somehow disappeared, and with their broken hearts, they went to Jerusalem and waited. And you know the rest of the story. You know the rest of the story because it is our story.
When they went there and when they waited, a spirit came to them that was way more powerful than their pain. That was so powerful that it overcame their pain and empowered them to bear witness to the God who comes in brokenness and suffering. The God who comes in the midst of change and loss. We don’t always have to break open, we don’t always have to suffer deeply, but when the empty space is created by a loss, sit in that space. Wait in silence. Wait with each other in this place week after week. Because the promise will be fulfilled. God’s Holy Spirit will come and empower you for your future, for your new life, that you may love again.