“It’s Never Too Late To Be Who You Were Meant To Be!”
Are our best days behind us? How often do we think opportunity has passed us by? Here’s our chance to take a new look at the possibilities life offers, every day. As George Eliot said, it’s never too late to be who you were meant to be.
Speaker: Rev. Melanie Eyre
When available, a revised transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Prayers, readings, and songs from this week’s service are also provided below.
Community Circles – Are you left with questions after a talk, or did an idea so resonate with you that you want to explore it further? In our Community Circles, we build relationships with others, share ideas and insights, and support each other as we apply these principles in our daily lives.
Community Circle Zoom Meeting/Discussion: No Community Circle this week.
Please join us on the Zoom link below. I look forward to seeing you!
Prayer for Peace, on this anniversary of 9/11, from the Christian tradition
Loving God of Peace:
On this anniversary of unbelievable sorrow, comfort those who mourn, and guide our hearts toward healing and hope. Remind us of the love of Christ, love which leapt over cultural and ethnic boundaries to feed the hungry, seek the lost and care for the least. Make of Your children, no matter how we name You, one human family, bound together in the work of justice and peacemaking. Make us one with the Light that shines in the darkness and illumines a path toward understanding and reconciliation. Let love be our genuine call.
~ Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis
The 9/11 Prayer of Remembrance and Hope
We remember before you today those whose lives were lost in the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, and for all those whom we love but no longer see. We give thanks to you for the selfless courage of those brave souls who ran into burning buildings and who labored in the rubble; may their courage be to us a witness of what is possible when we are guided by love and dedication to our fellow human beings.
We pray today for the continued healing of all those suffering emotional and physical scars. May your spirit breathe new breath into clouded lungs, new life into troubled minds, and new warmth into broken hearts, so that all may feel wrapped in your loving embrace. May we move from suffering to hope, from brokenness to wholeness, from anxiety to courage, from death to life, from fear to love, and from despair to hope.
Guide our feet into the way of peace. Inspire us with hope in the gift of shalom and salaam. May we receive this gift, so that we might become instruments of your peace in this world, knowing all people as equally loved, lovingly created, children of God.
Found at: https://06880danwoog.com/2011/09/09/a-prayer-for-911/
Are our best days behind us? It’s never too late to be who you were meant to be.
Today is truly a day of remembrance – yesterday was the 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001 attacks, the day that saw so many thousands die, the collapse of the World Trade Centers, and profound changes to our country in ways we are still discovering. Those of us alive on that day will never forget what we were doing when we heard about the first plane, and then remained gripped to our televisions as events unfolded and we collectively tried to grasp what had happened.
Today we remember and honor those killed and injured, and we rededicate ourselves to the creation of a world in which such violence and hatred has no place.
Yesterday was also the 10th anniversary of One World, a happy remembrance. I think it somehow fitting that an organization like One World, dedicated to the awakening of peace and compassion in our communities and our world, began on a day marked by such tragedy as 9/11.
Today, hope continues to rise, we continue to affirm that violence and division are not who we are. With organizations like One World and so many others, we continue to work toward a better future. Happy Anniversary to all in our community; each one of you is a blessing and an inspiration. We are what we are today because of each of you.
We are going to have a tenth anniversary celebration but, like many things, Covid has put a wrench in the works and we are going to delay it until we can celebrate in person – having a meal, sharing stories, giving each other a tenth anniversary hug. We will do it.
Our theme this month of September is “it’s never too late”. The entire quote is from George Eliot, who said “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” I love that thought: no matter how tired, disillusioned, or disheartened we might be, we always have the opportunity for renewal and new beginnings.
This thought really speaks to me, and perhaps to you. This past year and a half have been difficult and draining for us all individually and collectively. Many have suffered more acutely certainly than I have, as I sit in my house with food, and power, and an income. However, all of us are affected.
On a personal note, many of you know that my son just went through another spinal fusion surgery, his fifth, and it’s been a kick in the slats for him and for my family. I find myself discouraged; it’s tough to get up and get going. I have asked myself, as you may have, if our best days are behind us. Surely Covid, with the changes it has brought us, has given each of us the opportunity to ponder that question.
However, every time I ask myself that question, every time I suspect it may be true, the same answer comes into my mind. It is entirely my choice. It is never too late to fashion a future that brings joy and purpose. This is not a Pollyanna response; it’s really the only way I can take a next step. It also reflects what is true.
And, on this tenth anniversary, I think about how our own One World journey has manifested this principle. Ten years ago, five years ago, we didn’t know how we’d look today. From day one, we have been called to step forward, to be willing, to move forward even if we can’t fully discern the path. We may have had a sense of the next step, but not the next five or six. We’ve had to trust in each other in our vision and in the process of growth and transformation.
This was a collective process, and also an individual one. Each one of us has changed, has grown. Learning more about the world’s faith traditions, finding practices to deepen our spiritual journey. Taking on new functions, like stepping up to do a reading when you never thought you could be in front of a camera. Volunteering to do the morning meditation when leadership is needed. Each of us, at times, has taken as a motto Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Look fear in the face, and do what you think you cannot. You find that you can. It is never too late to be what you might have been.
In the Jewish tradition, we are in the midst of the season that embodies this principle.
We are in the midst of the Jewish High holidays, which began with the first day of Rosh Hashanah on September 6 and ended at nightfall on September 8. Yom Kippur begins at sunset on September 15, and ends at sunset the day after, on September 16. In the Jewish calendar it is a time of turning, and of new beginnings.
I want to explore what this holiday can teach us about change, and becoming, and awakening to who we can be.
In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is known as the Jewish New Year, even though it falls on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar.
Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah begins a period known as the ten days of awe, or the Days of Repentance. It’s a time for introspection, self-examination, a review of the year past. It’s also a time of reconciliation, forgiveness, and renewal. The Torah refers to this time as the Day of Remembrance, and it is the Torah, in Leviticus Chapter 23, verses 24-25, that sets it on the first day of the seventh month, the month known as Tishri.
In Jewish tradition, this is the time that God created Adam, the first human. Rosh Hashanah celebrates this new creation.
Rosh Hashanah is referred to traditionally as the Day of Judgment. On this day, in traditional belief, God opens the Book of Life and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die. One’s actions taken in the ten days before Yom Kippur can change this result, and therefore observers during this period focus on the three ways in which they can ensure their names are written in the book of life.
These three ways are repentance, prayer, and charity, or good works. Together, these practices are known as teshuvah, or “turning.” They represent our opportunity to take a fresh look, renew, and affirm choices that serve us better, individually and in community.
Repentance, prayer, and good deeds – these sound familiar, even though we may not use the same language.
The notion of repentance has a lot of baggage. For many it means the judgment of a harsh god, and begging for forgiveness. However, the source of the word is just to regret, to be sorry. I think of awareness, consciousness, unfolding. Who among us doesn’t need the opportunity to rethink some of the choices we’ve made? Have we been unkind, selfish, shortsighted? Yes, yes, and yes, all of us. The notion of repentance gives us the opportunity to look back and see that we might have behaved in a different way, made a different choice. We bring ourselves back in to alignment with the divine, and with others. It is a time of awareness, reconciliation, and healing.
Prayer, the next step. We are a community that strongly affirms the power of the energy of prayer. We align our focus, our thoughts and hearts to connect with Source, to know that we are one, that we can affirm the truth of our wholeness and that of others. Prayer is a primary way we rest in spirit, individually and collectively.
And good works. What does that mean but service? We are the hands, the feet and the voice of the divine here on earth, and the goal of our awakening is to spread that love and compassion here on earth. As Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore said, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy/ I awoke and saw that life was service/ I acted and behold, service was joy.”
We do not follow a spiritual path so that we can focus on our own growth to the exclusion of the world. The holy path necessarily brings you deeper into the world, more deeply involved with others and with all of life. The more we awaken, the more we open our hearts to all, seeing the oneness of all. If we believe we all are one, that separation is an illusion, then awakening inevitably means widening our circle of love, compassion, and care. Loving action follows.
You may view as metaphorical the imagery of God opening a book and examining it for names. It is a rich image, and you get to ask yourself what meaning it has for you as you reflect on your past year with a view to a new start.
What a gift it is to have a time dedicated to reflection about the larger questions. Am I behaving with kindness? How do I treat others? What judgments or assumptions, or beliefs do I have that injure others, that prevent me from seeing them in their true and holy light? How necessary it is to have a period of time devoted to the notion that we should look back, reflect on our actions, and consider how we may live a life in the coming year that brings us closer to each other and to God.
These rituals are a blessing, whatever faith tradition claims them. In the Christian tradition you see the period of lent, devoted also to a time of reflection and renewal. These annual rituals give us a time, remind us each year, of the necessity of this practice.
The opportunity is always fresh, even if the ritual is ancient.
We may be tempted during this process to focus on the many ways we perceive we have fallen short, and those should be examined. However, Rosh Hashanah also calls on us to examine the ways we have been a blessing, to be kind to ourselves. We can grow, we can change, without heaping judgment on ourselves. By and large, we all are doing all we can, and we are human.
Rabbi Robin Nafshi of Temple Beth Jacob in Concord, NH, gave the following analogy in her 2017 Yom Kippur message. She said that when you’re driving somewhere and you take a wrong turn, your GPS doesn’t start yelling “You idiot! What were you thinking?” Instead, it calmly redirects, and you get to where you’re going. No judgment, no recrimination. We should do the same for ourselves.
“We are in the season of t’shuvah, turning or changing ourselves to become the people we want to be or we know we can be. We will never be perfect. We can’t be. We are human. Flaws will remain. But we still can make changes.”
That is the purpose of this time. We spoke a couple of weeks ago about the concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Teshuvah is a part of that; we heal ourselves, we heal our world and bring back the original wholeness that was lost.
Rabbi Nafshi goes on:
“The final stage of t’shuvah is accepting who we are and realizing that our flaws make us unique. Our challenge in life is not to hide who we are, hide our inner voice, or live like other people, but to become more like ourselves.”
She quoted the great Chasidic master, the Ba’al Shem Tov, who taught, “Compare yourself not with anyone else, lest you spoil God’s curriculum.”
Our goal is to become the light that we are, that no one else can be. Another way of putting it? Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.
Rosh Hashanah at its core is a celebration of our ability to renew, to begin again. However, as we grow in awareness, one of the gifts of our unfolding is a loving acceptance of who we are and where we are. Don’t we say that we are exactly where we need to be on our path, we are perfect just as we are, even though we could all use some improvement?
Rabbi Roni Handler writes that her goal for the high holy holidays is to “examine where I’ve been and where I’m going through the lens of acceptance.” Not that she is not going to continue to grow, but that she will love who she is now as she grows. We grow on a foundation of love and nurturing – that is how we flourish.
Rabbi Yael Levy writes that in this time of renewal we can lift our eyes to the good we have done this year, the blessings we have bestowed. She writes that this examination is the essence of teshuvah, of turning:
“The tradition teaches that acknowledging the good in ourselves is an act of teshuvah – an act of turning. We call ourselves to return to our best selves by recognizing the ways in which we have acted for love and blessing.”
The renewal called for during Rosh Hashanah thus is not a time to judge yourself and respond harshly, promising to be a better person. It is a time to affirm that you are a child of light, that your heart is called to bestow blessings, love, and compassion in this world. Rabbi Yael calls it an “invitation back into loving relationship with each other and all of life.”
There is always opportunity for change. The story is told of Rabbi Salanter, who one night was walking home past the home of a shoemaker. Despite it being very late, he observed the shoemaker was still busy, working by the light of a single candle. “Why are you still working?” Rabbi Salanter asked him. “It is very late and soon the candle will go out.”
The shoemaker replied “As long as the candle is still burning it is still possible to accomplish and to mend shoes.” In his wisdom, Rabbi Salanter realized this message is true for all of us. It’s never too late to change.
I mentioned earlier that Rosh Hashanah is celebrated at this time of the year because Jewish tradition teaches that this is when God created Adam, the first human. This is also a message rich in symbolism, one that can bring inspiration and hope to us.
Shimon Apisdorf, author of the book Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Survival Kit, draws this lesson from Rosh Hashanah. Apisdorf observes that God, being God, could have created thousands of people at once, entire cities or civilizations. But he didn’t; he created an individual. To this author, that choice reflects what he calls “the fantastic potential inherent in each of us.” Each of us has the ability and potential to make a difference in our world. One is enough.
These high holidays teach us that renewal is an ongoing gift and opportunity. Every day we have the choice to reflect, renew, begin again, reconnect with our essence. Every moment of our life gives us that opportunity. We are constantly, every day, starting anew. What can we do in the weeks and months ahead to continue our growth, to share our gifts? How can I contribute to making the world a better place? The message of Rosh Hashanah is that the world awakens as we do.
Look at the three practices I spoke of at the beginning – repentance, prayer, service. What might that mean for you, in whatever language you select? Reflect, connect, and act. Breathe, light a candle, go to work. There is so much to be done.
About Rev. Melanie Eyre
Rev. Melanie Eyre is an ordained Interspiritual Minister and long-time student of the world’s many diverse faith traditions. She has served as One World’s Spiritual Director since 2015 and is the founder of the North Fulton Interfaith Alliance here in Georgia. Outside of One World, Rev. Melanie has a beautiful family and enjoys officiating traditional and non-traditional rituals and other special ceremonies that mark important life transitions – weddings, baby blessings, and celebrations of life.
For more about Rev. Melanie and her practice, visit her website: Memorable Services with Heart.
I Am Opening Up in Sweet Surrender by Michael Stillwater
Can’t Go Wrong by Phillip Phillips
This service aired on September 12, 2021