What Does It Mean To Be A People of Resistance?
…it starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again
after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
–Marge Piercy, from The Low Road
Yes, this month’s theme is among the most complex of them all. But it also may be the most simple.
The complexity is clear:
- Sometimes being a people of resistance involves struggle and requires us to disobey; other times it asks us to just be ourselves and not hide who we really are. Sometimes it involves defeating the enemy; other times it is a matter of noticing that treating them as the enemy defeats us all. Sometimes being a person of resistance is about fighting all the way to the top; other times it’s about picking yourself up off the floor and taking one tiny step. Sometimes it depends on the will to never let them win; other times it hinges on the wisdom to follow the path of least resistance.
- It certainly takes the form of speaking our truth. But more often than not, it’s about the harder task of speaking the truth in love.
- We all know being a people of resistance involves refusing to comply and demanding change, which requires great courage. But sometimes the most courageous thing is to stop resisting and accepting that things just aren’t going to work out the way we hoped.
Bottom line: being a people of resistance is tricky business and takes multiple forms.
But beyond this complexity lies the simplicity of Marge Piercy’s words. In all cases, she reminds us, being a people of resistance starts when we say we.
Or maybe it’s better to say that none of us have to resist alone. We all know what is it like to want to resist. Think of all those voices we hear in our heads and feel in our hearts: I’m not going to take it any more. I will not go along. I will not submit. I refuse to conform. I will no longer be numb. I will not give up. I will not forget. I will not go to sleep. I will ignore it no longer. I will not turn a blind eye. And yet, we also know that those voices are hard to hear and hold on to by ourselves. The blessing, of course, is that we don’t have to hold on alone.
It is one thing to be told, “Resist!” It is quite another to be told, “Resist
together!” But often what we need most is simply to be reminded that we don’t
have to resist alone. May this be the gift we give each other this month. Let’s
help each other remember to start by saying we! It may be as simple as that.
Our Spiritual Exercises
Who made resistance possible for you? Who stood beside you as you stood against the status quo? Who helped remind you that the arc really can be bent? Who invited you into a vision of an entirely new day? Who made you feel like a one of a kind rather than a misfit? Who helped you resist the pressures to follow the herd?
Someone stood beside you. Someone picked you up for the protests. Someone taught the class that opened your eyes. Someone wrote the poem that inspired you. Someone’s sacrifice moved your heart. Someone’s courage rubbed off on you. Someone told you that you were precious. Someone made you feel like you aren’t in the fight alone.
Thank them! That’s it. Your assignment: Find a way to thank them and tell them how they made your resistance possible. Let them know what a gift it was.
Get Going … But Not On Your Own
This could be a month of new resolutions. Don’t just pick a resolution; pick a partner! Honoring the spiritual practice of accountability, tell a trusted friend about your resolution and then ask them to help hold you to it. Choose whatever accountability strategy that works best for both of you. Maybe ask them to text you once a day to remind or encourage you. Instead of running alone, ask them to run with you for the month. Maybe your resolution is to get back to writing. If so, ask them to be your editor.
And don’t just ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to help you reflect on the experience itself. Sit down for at least one conversation before your small group meeting to talk with your “resolution partner” about how it felt to be held accountable and to hold one accountable. What did it teach you – and them – about the power of resisting together?
Give It Some Thought
This exercise invites us into internal work. Authored by one of our Soul Matters ministers, the following poem challenges us to face those “impenetrable places” in a new way. Instead of pushing against or running away from those inner “steel doors” right away, it asks us to just “stay there” and “breathe.”
In that spirit of sitting still, use this poem as your guide and companion this month. Weave it into your daily meditation or reflective practice. Pay attention to the way a new line will stand out each day. Come to your group ready to share the journey, where it took you and what it taught you about the resistance we wrestle with inside.
By Peter Friedrichs, Soul Matters Minister
Press the tender flesh of your knowing
Against the steel door of your fear.
Stay there, breathing,
as its icy skin draws out the heat
of your racing heart.
Feel its resistance
to the yes of your hopes,
the imminent expiration
of your dreams.
You could have avoided this pain.
You could have stayed safely cradled,
blind, in the womb of your ignorance.
But in the silence of a moonless night
something called you here,
to this impenetrable place.
At the edge of sleep, or death,
you heard a sound
from beyond this door:
A prisoner, past all hope of release,
tapping his bent spoon
against the cell wall
that divides you,
desperate to be heard and known.
This is your life calling.
And now, having heard its cry,
you have no choice but
to find a way through.
Give It A Rest
In his book Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, Walter Brueggemann invites us to resist our culture of busyness and anxiety. To him, striving is one of our greatest spiritual diseases. Resisting it needs to become one of everyone’s core spiritual practices. Here are his Sabbath “instructions”:
• You do not have to do more.
• You do not have to sell more.
• You do not have to control more.
• You do not have to know more.
• You do not have to be younger or more beautiful.
Pick one of these as your challenge or guide. Make it your mantra for the month. Find as many ways as you can to honor its goal of giving you rest and release. Report to your group what this counter-cultural act of resistance was like for you.
(List taken from this review of Brueggemann’s book: http://tinyurl.com/hjonned)
As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or a list that needs to be covered in its entirety. Instead, simply pick the one question that “hooks” you most and let it lead you where you need to go. The goal of these questions is not to help you analyze what resistance means, but to figure out what being a person of resistance means for you today. So, which question is calling to you?
- What would happen if you saw praise, joy or the creation of beauty as your primary form of resistance? What if the world needs your praise as much as your picket signs? What if it needs the creation of beauty as much as the elimination of injustice?
- Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” How is life asking you to end your silence?
- Is it really an insurmountable and futile challenge? Or just a matter of taking the next small step in front of you?
- The psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote, “What you resist, persists.” So, is it possible that your resistance is the source of the struggle you are in? Would the fight end if you stopped fighting? Would the wall fall down if you stopped pushing on it?
- Has the habit become bad? Is it time to be honest about how your habit controls you more than you control it?
- If you were put on trial for being countercultural, would you be convicted?
- Is it possible that your refusal to give up and give in may be a way of avoiding the pain?
- Is labeling them the enemy defeating both them and you?
- Are your efforts to save the world leaving room to savor it?
- What would happen if you saw your justice work not as saving the world or bending the arc of the universe towards justice, but simply as “being a pest”? (Inspired by the Dalai Lama, who wrote: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”)
- What’s your question? Your question may not be listed above. As always, if the above questions don’t include what life is asking from you, spend the month listening to your days to hear it.