Be Your Own Guru – Part 1

As I prepared to enter the sanctuary one Sunday morning, a visitor I’ll call ZZ approached me and eagerly shared excitement about being there. ZZ heard about the church and about me from a church-member friend. I felt flattered, and also curious, wondering what ZZ might be seeking.

Later, in the receiving line, ZZ pumped my hand before entering the fellowship area. Several minutes later, ZZ returned, bubbling with enthusiasm, carrying a piece of paper and a pen. As I turned to him, he thrust the paper and pen at me and said, “I want you to write something down.” Before I could discern what he needed, he rapidly and repeatedly told me about a local guru he wanted me to meet. He repeated how much Local Guru could help me and about what Local Guru did.

As he continued his stream of consciousness, my belly constricted. At first, I felt confused and annoyed, wondering why he thought I needed the advice. Then, I remembered my “compassion ears,” the part of my pastoral radar system which listens beyond what is explicitly said.

When ZZ finally took a breath, I said I knew about Local Guru’s work. Then I said, “I imagine Local Guru has helped you tremendously on your spiritual journey.”

“Oh, yes,” said ZZ, again pushing the paper at me and repeating how much it would help me, too.

Still ignoring the paper I said, “Thank you for sharing your story with me. How fulfilling to find a teacher you can learn from. Perhaps there’s something you’d like to learn here too?” I asked.

ZZ shrugged and said he didn’t know. Then he thanked me and we parted amicably.

Later, I reflected on the conversation. I remembered times in my past, as I discovered my own spiritual path, when I gushed unsolicited advice about a favorite guru I thought someone else needed to follow. During that time of ardent seeking, when I thought all the answers I sought existed in books and gurus, I learned a sacred truth from a blessed counselor who said: “Jenn, maybe you could put all the books in a box for a while and stop looking for your guru. Listen to yourself. Then, you can be your own guru.”

Be my own guru? Her words stunned me. Then they sank in, and they remain with me still, years later, as I’ve journeyed through two different careers and into ministry.

I regret that I didn’t share my former counselors’ wisdom with ZZ, though I’m honored to share it with you, Blessed Reader.

Many of us seek answers to sometimes unanswerable questions, as we sort through all the facts, figures, opinions, and other assorted information which bombard us daily. Yet, with faith and trust, we can continually tap into our own inner wells of wisdom, knowing we receive the true guidance we need as we discern what’s best for us and our lives.

In Part 2: Some practical ways to begin nurturing the inner guru.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.

Mountains of Love: Remembering MLK Jr.

Many discussions in life involve the themes of happiness and love. Yet, we don’t always know the difference. One of the best clarifications I’ve read is from an unnamed Catholic priest who worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He said, “When you think about it, if your main goal is to be happy, you’re going to be miserable. But if your main goal is to love, you’re going to be happy.”

As people around the globe remember the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., perhaps we can reconsider how we experience happiness when we choose to love, especially the seemingly unlovable. When discussing the theme of love in 1953, MLK said: “We realize that we stand surrounded with mountains of love and we deliberately dwell in the valley of hate.” He could speak these words now, in 2016, as so many surrounded by mountains of love choose to dwell in valleys of hatred, upset and anger. For some, it’s easier to remain in the valley than pull themselves out.

To reside in mountains of love takes persistent, determined, spiritual practice. It requires, as MLK taught, that we consider ourselves first, rarely an easy task. Because the truth is, we won’t like some people, and some people won’t like us. Not the way we walk, talk, dress, act, work, think, or breathe. MLK acknowledged: Sometimes others don’t like us because of jealousy about something we have or because they feel hurt about something we did or said.

Nevertheless, he encouraged us “to discover the element of good” in others. He said that when we choose to see “the image of God” within them, we begin to love an “enemy” because we behold the essence of the divine in them, no matter what they’ve said or done. The more we behold this image, the happier we can feel, because we change ourselves and move to a greater consciousness of love.

MLK called this greater consciousness an overflowing, unconditional love for all people, a creative, redemptive, transformative love which seeks nothing in return. MLK said that when we love this way, we love everyone, not because they’re likable, but because this is how we imagine God loves.

This is the core of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures which MLK preached: We love this way because by doing so, we express – as best we can imagine – God’s unconditional love and infinite compassion.

MLK admitted: It’s a challenge to like some people. Yet, he encourages us to love them because it liberates and strengthens us. He said: “The strong person is the person who” chooses to cut the chains of hatred and chooses love.

Because the truth is: Our hatred hurts us more than anyone else. It destroys all our attempts to be happy and eats away at us from the inside out, hurting our bodies, minds and spirits. As much as hatred can keep us wallowing in the valley forever, love can help us climb mountains we never imagined possible. With love, the journey becomes easier – and maybe, happier, too.


© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.