We are all familiar with the Nicene and the Apostles’ creeds, the two great faith-summaries that anchor our faith. Without them, eventually we would drift off the path and lose our way. Creeds anchor us.
But the great creeds are like huge rivers that need smaller tributaries to bring their waters into various places. Thus, we also need mini-creeds, short, pithy truth-statements that anchor us morally and spiritually. We all, no doubt, have our own favorite mini-creeds. Here are some of mine:
· Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, in a letter to the people of Canada, just before dying of cancer.
· The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your wounds to your head or your heart. Henri Nouwen, journaling while working through a clinical depression.
· When something hard happens to you, you have two choices in how to deal with it. You can get bitter, or better. Donald Miller, challenging young people to a higher ethic.
· When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always. Mohandas K. Gandhi, asserting his belief in the ultimate triumph of truth and goodness.
· Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by a final act of love, which is forgiveness. Reinholt Niebuhr, on the complexities of sanctity.
· This is how we grow: by being defeated decisively by constantly great things. Rainer Marie Rilke suggesting that a defeat by the other world is better than a victory in this one.
· Our faith begins at the very point where atheists suppose that it must end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power of the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists. Jurgen Moltmann on the dark night of faith and the cross.
· There comes a time in one’s life where the question is no longer: What can I still do to remain productive and to make a contribution in this world? Rather the question becomes: How can I live now so that when I die my death will be an optimal blessing for my loved ones, for the church, and for the world? Henri Nouwen on the difference between giving our lives away and giving our deaths away.
· Don’t be afraid to suffer, give the heaviness back to the weight of the earth; mountains are heavy, seas are heavy. Rainer Marie Rilke writing to a friend grieving the death of a loved one.
· Love must wait for wounds to heal. It is this waiting that we must do for each other, not with a sense of mercy, or in judgment, but as if forgiveness were a rendezvous. Novelist Anne Michaels on empathy.
· In this life there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy. But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. Henri Nouwen on how we live now, “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears”.
· Wake up lovers; it is time to start the journey! We’ve seen enough of this world; it is time to see another. Rumi, suggesting that mostly we are asleep to the other world and to the deeper things of this one.
· Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few human or even divine ingredients can. Hafiz, Fourteenth Century, Sufi Mystic poet.
· To reach satisfaction in all, desire satisfaction in nothing. To come to possess all, desire the possession of nothing. To arrive at being all, desire to be nothing. To come to the knowledge of all, desire the knowledge of nothing. To come to enjoy what you have not, you must go by a way in which you enjoy not. To come to the possession you have not, you must go by a way in which you possess not. To come to what you are not, you must go by a way in which you are not. John of the Cross on finding life by giving it away.