I remember years ago being told the story of a male school teacher who had back surgery over the summer and began the school year wearing a solid plastic cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and was not noticeable at all. On the first day of school, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in the school. Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, he opened the window as wide as possible and then busied himself with desk work. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he took the desk stapler, in full view of the students, and stapled the tie to his chest. Needless to say, he had no disciple problems that year. I can imagine being one of his student and sitting in awe of him. That sense enables one to practice reverence because it changes the way we see someone.
I had a similar experience when I was teaching. Those who know me, know that I love SPICY foods; the spicier the better. On the first day of the semester, a colleague of mine came into my classroom shortly before class was going to begin. She had picked up a bottle of habanero hot sauce from Mexico. I so wanted to smell it, or at least taste it, but I could not get the bottle opened. I asked if someone could help me and one of the toughest guys in the class, who wanted to show off his muscles, said he would help me if I would drink it. He had no clue who he was talking to. So he opened the bottle and I took several sips, enough to make him walk away saying “I ain’t messing with you Dr J.” From that point forward everyone treated me with the utmost respect.
Reverence is not always about making people stand back and go whoa. It is about recognizing the wonder and awe in life. The people I revere the most are not those who have been able to staple a tie into the plastic brace or drink a bottle of hot sauce, but those who live their lives in a way which makes me stand back in awe and wonder.
This season in my life, I have had to be intentional about practicing reverence. I grew up believing that people could work and live together despite their differences. I knew it was not easy. The world seemed filled with people who always arguing and filled with hatred for one group or another. Families arguing with families, countries with countries, religions with religions, races with races, sexualities with sexualities, etc. As I have evolved, I have been blessed to have been in situations where I was able to be part of intentional communities where people realized the work of becoming whole is a never-ending story.
I used to think I could change the world. What I have come to realize now is that I can have an effect on the world around me and that the difference I make will have a ripple effect on the world. As Shirley Caeser suggested, I may not be able to change the world, but I can take this one little piece of the world and make it a better place. I continue to work on radiating love, peace and understanding to the world, with every fiber of who I am, even the parts others may not consider perfect.
One of the secrets I have learned is that I must give the sacred act of listening to all of humanity, not just those I like. I must honor those whose voices fill me with joy and those whose words I find unpleasant, harmful and critical. For me, there is a difference between saying I agree with you and I have heard you. We all deserve the right to be heard.
Reverence is about giving respectful tolerance to all, but listening to the voice of your own heart. When we revere the voice of the Infinite which lives within us, then we will be guided on the path which is true for us and be guided to our soul’s destination. When we do we are showing reverence for our self and for the source that guides us.
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