Open­ing to the Spirit

To­day’s word: Key

Sherbrooke Record - - COLUMNIST - By Revs Mead Bald­win, W. Lynn Dil­l­abough, Lee Ann Hogle, and Ca­role Mar­tig­nacco


) I have a mem­ory of re­ceiv­ing a key to my first apart­ment when I was 18. I shared the space with my sis­ters when I be­gan univer­sity. There was a feel­ing of pride about pay­ing rent, hav­ing a key, and un­lock­ing the door as I re­turned from classes. This is a fa­mil­iar rite of pas­sage. But our fam­ily lived in the coun­try and rarely locked the door to our farm­house. The key was a sym­bol of adult­hood and us­ing it felt good.

The word key is usu­ally used with the word lock. A key is a tool to open some­thing and per­haps un­cover a mys­tery. Per­haps an old chest, when un­locked, con­tains trea­sure. Maybe the key to an old stor­age locker holds ad­ven­ture, or a piece of our his­tory. Why then some­times, are we so re­luc­tant to use it.

My par­ents were both teach­ers and em­pha­sized that ed­u­ca­tion was the key to our fu­ture. Sci­en­tific dis­ci­plines hold the se­crets of the world we live in. Why then are so many re­luc­tant to be­lieve in sci­ence? A re­cent sur­vey found that 43% of Cana­di­ans who re­sponded said sci­ence was “a matter of opinion”. Even worse, 33% said sci­ence can't be trusted be­cause it is al­ways sub­ject to change. Th­ese sci­ence scep­tics are bury­ing the knowl­edge that could un­lock our fu­ture se­cu­rity. In ed­u­ca­tion, in sci­ence, we have been given a valu­able key. Let's not be afraid to trust it and learn.


) As a child I used to have a per­sonal di­ary that came with a lock and a tiny key. I locked it faith­fully af­ter ev­ery writ­ing ses­sion, thus guar­an­tee­ing that my younger broth­ers would not have ac­cess to all my se­crets.

I think it was the be­gin­ning of set­ting healthy bound­aries be­tween my pri­vate life and public one.

With the ad­vent of the mod­ern elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools of Face­book, Twit­ter and text-shar­ing, this no­tion of pri­vacy is be­com­ing cloudy. I of­ten hear peo­ple say, “If I have noth­ing to hide, why would I care?” As a re­sult we now know when our friend wakes up with a headache and when some­one at the of­fice is hav­ing re­la­tion­ship prob­lems. Wis­dom tells us, how­ever, that some thoughts and feel­ings do bet­ter locked up in a di­ary.

Words that are broad­cast can never be taken back. Words writ­ten in haste and in anger may be ther­a­peu­tic, but they may also un­der­mine a re­la­tion­ship that is worth pre­serv­ing. Al­though trans­parency is a much- lauded qual­ity in the public do­main, I would think twice about the kinds of in­for­ma­tion I share and who I give the key of my di­ary to.


) Keys un­lock what's closed: doors, chests, yes - and se­cret pas­sage­ways, old habits, heal­ing wounds, minds and hearts. I re­mem­ber be­ing in awe of the school jan­i­tor who car­ried on his belt an enor­mous ring of clank­ing keys of all shapes and sizes. If you needed to get into any­where, you just had to track him down.

Blog posts and cour­ses th­ese days of­fer the keys to in­stant suc­cess, healthy liv­ing, un­der­stand­ing, how to for­give, or love, or find en­light­en­ment. Key - as in "key word" - is mar­ket­ing lingo for a lot of prac­ti­cal, pop­u­lar or life-chang­ing wis­dom.

A pro­found in­sight came to me dur­ing a guided med­i­ta­tion about keys. We all sat in a cir­cle around a lit can­dle, and con­sented to be led through an ex­er­cise in learn­ing to trust in­tu­ition, that in­ner know­ing we all have but are of­ten too wary or dis­tracted to con­sult. First we dropped any no­tions of what needed to be un­locked. Open to dis­cov­ery, we closed our eyes and prac­ticed deep breath­ing. Now fol­low, we were told, the wind­ing wooded path, cross an open meadow, find the bub­bling stream. Take the sus­pen­sion bridge over a deep ravine. Leav­ing the bridge, I descended in my mind's eye a steep stair­case, each step trans­par­ent. Look­ing down, I imag­ined fall­ing through to the depths be­low. The re­treat leader then sur­prised us, "Now be­fore the door, you will be handed a key. Feel its weight; ex­plore its shape in your hand. Don't reach out yet to open the door in front of you. In­stead, look for the per­son who just handed you the key. Spend some time with that per­son." I knew im­me­di­ately who that per­son was, and who I needed to ask for help.

Who holds the keys is as im­por­tant as find­ing what's be­hind the door. Cu­ri­ously, when I did fi­nally turn the key in the lock, the door, al­ready un­locked, swung open freely be­fore me. Do you know who are the key hold­ers in your life? Per­haps it's you!


) Many of us have a key to our home hid­den in a strate­gic place: un­der a par­tic­u­lar rock, in the mouth of a ce­ramic frog, or be­neath the flower pot. Many times I have been given in­struc­tions about how to get into other peo­ples’ homes when they are away and it is a spe­cial priv­i­lege to know the se­cret. It al­ways makes me feel a bit like a spy or a de­tec­tive when I find the key and let my­self in.

Ed­u­ca­tion can be like that, and so can our re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple around us. When you pay at­ten­tion and know where to look, you can gain en­try into worlds that, be­fore this, were locked and un­known. The key to ed­u­ca­tion might be re­search and care­ful read­ing. The key to en­ter­ing the world of an­other per­son might be good ques­tions and care­ful at­ten­tion.

One re­la­tion­ship that needs no key is the re­la­tion­ship we have with God. Je­sus said, “knock and the door will be opened to you”. We don’t need to pass tests or even to spend the time that it nor­mally takes to be trusted. The poet Rumi tells us that when we take a step to­ward God, God comes run­ning to us. Al­though there are many path­ways to a deeper knowl­edge and love of God, such as the study of the­ol­ogy and the spir­i­tual prac­tices of prayer, the first door is opened wide as soon as we ask. No hid­den key re­quired!

One word, four voices - now it's your turn to re­flect: If there were a "key" to ev­ery­thing, who has it and what would you want to un­lock?

Rev. Mead Bald­win pas­tors the Water­ville & North Hat­ley pas­toral charge; Rev. Lynn Dil­l­abough is now Rec­tor of St. Paul's in Brockville ON. She con­tin­ues to write for this col­umn as a ded­i­cated col­league with the Eastern Town­ships clergy writ­ing team; Rev. Lee Ann Hogle min­is­ters to the Ayer’s Cliff, Ma­gog & Ge­orgeville United Churches; Rev. Ca­role Mar­tig­nacco is Con­sult­ing Min­is­ter to UU Estrie-uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ists in North Hat­ley.

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