by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM September 9, 2018
During these last lingering days of summer, a seasonal image that keeps returning to me is resilience. A dictionary might describe that quality as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; the ability of a substance or object to spring back and return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, or bent.
Summer has been rather generous in providing a daily visual aid to demonstrate resilience for me. Each time I left my apartment this summer, I had to open an iron gate outside, a favorite home for spiders weaving their webs. My passing through pretty much obliterated those works of labor and artistry, undoing in seconds what had taken hours or days to build. Amazingly, by the next morning those exquisite creations already showed signs of beginning again.
But what about when life can’t be returned to its original shape, when the web simply can’t be rebuilt in its original location? When we find ourselves in the role of a modern-day Job, one daunting loss or challenge heaped on top of another? When the slip or fall shatters beyond repair? When the fire leaves nothing but ashes or the flood carries away every familiar, cherished memory? When the world of our daily lives has been pulled, stretched, pressed or bent to the point that elasticity is impossible?
When we can’t return to the same shape or space that we were in before illness or loss or circumstances changed the direction of our path, what allows us to be resilient in a new normal, a reality that calls on all our reserves of patience and tenacity and fierce determination to hold onto hope?
It may be that those are the times for leaning in.
Lean into prayer.
Cry, and wail, and shout your pain to a loving God who does not break the tender reed nor extinguish a flickering flame. Lean into prayer when the well is dry and your voice is barely a whisper. Lean into prayer when you have no words but to ask the Holy One, “What do you want to pray in me?” Irene Nowell’s Pleading, Cursing, Praising: Conversing with God through the Psalms, offers some of the ways you might pray when an unwelcome, unexpected new normal manifests itself in your life.
Lean into the tribe who love and support you.
Lean into the support of friends or family, those companions who enter your life owning their inability to save or fix or rescue you. Lean into the ones practiced in deep listening and faithful companioning, the ones who know it’s beyond their power to change your circumstances or take away your painful realities, the ones who remain present, who stay with, who accompany, no matter what.
Lean into compassion both for yourself and others.
Reflect on what Teilhard de Chardin calls “the slow work of God,” an acceptance and understanding that the Holy One’s sense of time is very often different from your way of measuring or counting. Be patient with the detours you may need to take. Bring fresh thinking and imagination to making a way forward through unfamiliar terrain where the old road maps may no longer work. Use your own suffering to bless someone else whose wounds are fresher than yours.
Lean and lean and lean into the grace of God. And in that graced place, in your new normal, may you not only survive. May you thrive.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Call to mind a challenging experience of your life, present or past.
What did/does that look like? feel like?
Who or what helped or is helping you to hold onto hope?
Spend time in quiet gratitude for the faithful companioning of the Holy One in your life.
Thank you for returning to Mining the Now after my hiatus for my own retreat and renewal in August. I’ve missed you and am delighted to be back.
May I ask you to hold in prayer all who will be part of this upcoming retreat:
September 10-17: Directed retreat at St. Mary by-the-Sea, Cape May Point, NJ. I’ll be one of the spiritual guides during these days. Thank you.
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