Show Me Your Heart: September 29, 2013 Call to Worship at First Universalist

In meditations, talks, writing on September 30, 2013 at 10:19 am

On Sunday, September 29th, 2013, I had the honor of calling the First Universalist congregation to worship as we kicked off a large racial justice initiative. Here’s a recording  (courtesy of First Universalist – more recordings from First Universalist here), and the text is below.


“Arif, will you show me your heart?”

I was sitting across from my wife on the first morning of a week long couples retreat. In her outstretched hand, she held a heart shaped stone. She was inviting me to take the stone, and share with her anything that was in or on my heart.

I looked from the stone up into her eyes. Saw the same fear and excitement that I felt in my own belly. And in that invitation to be available and vulnerable with this person I so deeply love…I wanted nothing more than to bolt from the room.

But I didn’t. I took a deep breath, settled in, and spoke from my heart.

Ten minutes later, I extended the same invitation back to Channing, offering her the stone: “will you show me your heart?” And let me tell you, if the invitation to share my heart was scary, the invitation to receive hers was even more terrifying. Would she trust me with her deepest longings, her loves, her regrets, her full humanity? What would she say? All my doubts and fears came flooding in. Channing must have seen that because she reached out, held my face for a moment and said: “Yes, I will show you my heart.”

Show me your heart has become a bedrock practice of building and feeding our relationship and our marriage, because of the way it breaks through the trance of busyness and iphone mania. It calls us into on the spot availability and vulnerability.

I’m sharing this with you because I think if we’re going to walk the walk of racial justice with each other, we can’t do it without being more available and more vulnerable.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you turn to the person next to you and say “show me your heart” but, think about it.

What might it mean for us to be more available to each other, within and beyond these walls? Availability is another word for presence: The presence we cultivate through meditation, prayer, or other spiritual practices. The presence we experience when listening deeply to each other’s longings, loves, regrets, being available to one another’s full humanity.

What might happen if we were truly available to those we know, and those we don’t?

What might it mean if we were able to be more vulnerable with each other, creating trust, and connection, one of the pillars of right relationship?

What might happen?

We’d get better.

We’d get better at sharing the things that make us uncomfortable, the shame, the fear, the pain that racism has etched in different ways on all of our hearts.

We’d get better at sitting with each other’s discomfort, the idea that I can’t fix, save or set straight your pain, but I can sit with you as you are in it.

And getting better within these walls helps us outside these walls too, increasing our ability to join our allies, acting in harmony for justice.

The legacy and impact of racism is deep. I usually avoid talking about it in mostly white groups because I inevitably trigger someone. I’m talking about race and racial justice here because I have to. The work of racial justice is the work of digging in. The walk of racial justice is the walk of availability and vulnerability. To be a part of this community as we start this journey of racial justice work, I have to be more available to you, I have to be more vulnerable with you. And I invite you to join me.

Will you show me your heart?

Come, let us worship together.