In Times of Uncertainty, What Makes You You?

Staff_McDermott, Tom“We are what we love.”

— Forrest Church

Who are you?’ someone asks. ‘I am the story of myself,’ comes the answer.”

— M. Scott Momaday

When our boys were young, my work occasionally had me on the road (or in the air), sometimes for a week at a time. One of the bedtime traditions we developed early on, before I’d leave, was singing the nursery rhyme, “I See the Moon.”

I see the moon

and the moon sees me.

God bless the moon

and God bless me. 

When I see the moon

and the stars so bright,

I thank the Lord

for day and night.

I’d often remind them that we’re never really that far apart, “We can always see the moon together. We are connected by the moon and by God’s love.” And then I’d draw a simple picture of us throwing a string up to the moon, and connecting it in a triangular fashion to each of our hearts.

And that worked pretty nicely, except for the vast majority of days that the moon was either not present or shrouded behind clouds!

So, that tradition changed slightly when one afternoon our youngest, Matt, awoke me from a deep nap (one of those “just got home from an exhausting road trip, sat in the living room chair, and went unconscious, mouth gaping” naps). Matthew especially enjoyed waking me from those naps, as even the slightest tap would cause me to bolt upright with a “deer in headlights” gasp!

I stammered, “Matt! What’s the matter? What happened?!”

He giggled and laughed delightfully and then asked, “Dad, what makes me who I am?”

How do you come to your stoic senses enough to address such questions as the essence of being from such a deep stupor?! And my first inclination was to say, “You should really ask your mom that question.” (OK, really my first thought was, “What the . . . Isn’t there a ‘Sesame Street’ program on TV?”)

But no, this was God, and mystery incarnate, in the form of a Zen-like 4-year-old Yoda saying to me the very question most of us have pondered throughout life in one form or another: “Who am I if I am not me, you are asking.”

And Yoda brought me to my senses as I remembered Forrest Church’s words and I said to Matt, “Where do you keep me when I am traveling?”

And Matthew pointed to his heart.

“And that’s where Mom and Dad keep you, too — in our hearts,” I said. “So, I guess we are what we keep in our hearts.”

It has been said that the only thing certain about life is that nothing is certain. However you align yourself with sports affiliations, political agendas, religious doctrines, and your day-to-day work and personal life, one thing is certain — it’s not always predictable. Change is the way of life. We are always departing, in a real sense, from where we used to be, from how things used to be, and sometimes from what we’d hoped life would be. We are always adjusting to the next thing.

So what remains constant? How do we navigate the mystery, especially at those times when we suddenly find ourselves so overwhelmed it’s as if we are alone in the midst of a dark, unfamiliar territory?

We are in the Season of Lent, the 40 plus days leading up to Easter, which began yesterday with Ash Wednesday. For the next six weeks, in eleven:eleven celebration, we will explore this journey using the book “Gifts of the Dark Wood: Seven Blessings for Soulful Skeptics (and Other Wanderers).” I’ll be using the book as a starting point, but there will be a number of departures for where we may be in our journey in eleven:eleven as well as what we may be experiencing in our lives and world. With a focus on storytelling and special music, we will have the opportunity to reflect on how we create the story of our lives in the contexts of God’s presence in the obstacles, the mysteries, and the wonders of life. What are the stories that we tell ourselves? Who we are? What are the stories we hold in our hearts in times of joy as well as those deepest places of uncertainty?

You will not want to miss this series.

Sunday, March 5

Gifts of the Dark Wood:

“taking the uncertain path”


featuring poetry, Bob and Evelyn, and the music of

Loreena McKennitt, Men at Work, Peter Mayer,

and featuring soloist Avary Vaughn

See you Sunday!


Join me in August 2017 for . . .

The Sacred Spaces Tour of Ireland

Spaces still open!


Subscribe to E-News

Subscribe to Newsletter Footer