In last week’s column I wrote about a book entitled Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz by Frank Barrett. Many of you responded by talking about the current “messes” you are in the midst of in your lives, and how it was helpful to be reminded that saying, “Yes” to those messes is the first step to navigating your way through them. As we as a nation prepare to celebrate Independence Day this coming week, there is something else to remember that can help us navigate our way through the challenging “messes” we may be facing. There is no doubt that we as a nation are finding ourselves in the midst of some difficult challenges right now and, as when any group of people are facing a real challenge, we are often apt to find ourselves divided. This Fourth of July provides us then with a wonderful chance for us to focus on what unites us a country, and to remember the ideals and vision that were the foundation of our origin as a nation.
I think the reason we love to remember and celebrate beginnings, such as the birth of our nation, is because when something is brand new it is full of ideals, and possibilities. This dream of what can be applies to the birth of a nation, as well as to the possibilities of a new job, a new relationship, the life of a new born child, the start of an organization, or any new chapter in our lives. When something is new there has not yet been enough time for any serious messiness or conflict to occur and anything seems possible
Whenever I work with a family or an organization that is struggling or in conflict, be it as a pastor or as a family therapist, I always start by asking them to go back to the ideals and vision that they held in common when they first started out. I ask them to remember and hold on to those. I remind them that it is easy for any of us to lose sight of our founding spirit and vision when we are in the midst of challenging times.
And so as a nation we pause each year to remember the founding ideals of our nation: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, along with the belief that all people are created equal and have the right to live free. Have we, along with our foremothers and forefathers, always lived up these ideals? Of course not. Through the years there has always been much that has divided us and there was then, and is now, much for which to repent. At the same time, there is also much that unites us and much to celebrate.
In both our national life and our personal lives, it is important to pause from time to time and remember and reclaim our core ideals and the vision for our lives, individually and collectively. Those founding ideals serve as a compass to guide us through the sometimes challenging and “messy middles” of our lives.
Happy Fourth of July everyone!