Belong and Prosper

I had tears in my eyes a few months ago when I learned Leonard Nimoy had died. He and his Star Trek character Mr. Spock felt like close, lifelong friends. I grew up watching endless hours of Star Trek. I had a Mr. Spock action figure, Star Trek posters. Star Trek comic books. On Halloween I dressed up as Mr. Spock with pointed rubber ears. What I particularly loved about Spock was the paradox he lived. He was half Vulcan and half human. He had Vulcan logic, yet also had human compassion. He was one Vulcan on a ship of over 400 hundred humans.  He was an important member of the crew, yet he didn’t quite fit in.

I imagine many of us have lived a similar paradox. Like Spock, we can be an insider, yet also feel like we don’t quite belong. Age. Sexual Orientation. Race. Gender. Ethnicity. Economic status...aspects of our identity can make us feel like an outsider even in the most welcoming of communities.

For most of my life, I’ve felt like an outsider. In high school I floated between cliques: geeks, jocks, stoners, musicians. I had friends in every group but never belonged to any group. Later, as a closeted ordained minister, I had intimate spiritual moments with parishioners, yet had to hide my sexuality and lie when asked personal questions. As a gay man just coming out of the closet, I went to bars searching for community but found loneliness and isolation. I had a toe in many communities, but never fully belonged.

Not long ago, I told my partner about this feeling that I never quite fit in. He said, “Of course you don’t.  You’re weird and different. That’s exactly why I love you so much.”

That kind of love heals. My partner is calling me one of his people.

You are one of God's people, a God whose healing love treasures what makes you different, adores what makes you not fit in.

In fact, not fitting in can be positive. Those of us locked out of “normalcy” are forced to look beyond the typical external answers: work harder, make more money, get a new partner, try a new addiction.

And that’s where being an outsider offers a potential gift. In our emptiness and brokenness, we despair of all external balms. The only place left to look is within, where we find a belonging that makes us an insider with the Divine, no matter how outside the mainstream we may be.

We discover a place of Inner Wholeness that weaves together all our disparate pieces.  Like Spock, we live the paradox of not fitting in, yet belonging to what matters most...a Love that even death cannot sever.

In the first episode of Star Trek’s second season, Spock travels home to the planet Vulcan. Leonard Nimoy wanted to give his character a greeting that would impart peace and blessing to his own people. He created the Vulcan salute and along with it a benediction: “Live long and prosper”.

Leonard Nimoy got the idea from attending synagogue as a child. On high holy days, the Kohanim, the descendants of the high priests of Israel, would pronounce the blessing of God on the people. All the people turned their backs to the priest, honoring the tradition that the Spirit of God was too beautiful to look upon and live.

Of course, being a curious boy, little Leonard turned around to peek at what was happening. He saw the priest hold up two hands with thumbs touching, creating the Hebrew letter shin, which represented the first letter of two divine names: Shaddai, the Almighty, and Shekinah, the feminine presence of God. Jewish tradition is that the Divine presence shines through the priest’s fingers to bless the people.

That same light of Divine blessing shines on you today. In that Light, there are no insiders or outsiders. Everyone is included. Belong and prosper.


(Note: This blog entry contains excerpts from a sermon I preached at Companions on the Inner Way. Click here to read the whole sermon in context.)