This is how many of my Zoom meetings begin and depending on who’s on the call and our relationships, we might hear:
- Everything’s fine.
- I’m drinking too much.
- I’ve gained my Covid-19 (pounds)
- The whole family’s been really cranky.
- The pandemic has been great for my devotional life.
- The pandemic has been great for my sex life.
- I don’t see what the big deal is.
All humans need a resilience tool box, especially when the world is stressed out on political divisions, culture shifts, daily violence, and – oh right – a pandemic with no vaccine. And there’s also the everyday stress of chores, child-raising, homework, office work, and relationships.
Good things for the tool box: Exercise (but not in a gym right now.) Deep breathing. Prayer. Naps. Screen check-ins with loved ones (“How are you doing?“) Drives in the country. Walks in the woods. Knitting. Baking. Punching bags. Volunteering.
Bad things for the tool box: Cocaine. Overeating. Overdrinking. Hitting people.
The New York Times has a whole series on resilience you can read here, including what we need in our tool boxes. And one of the articles helpfully states this:
The very earliest days of our lives, and our closest relationships can offer clues about how we cope with adversity.
This is not good news if our earliest days were traumatic and our closest relationships are toxic. I’ve written before about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and childhood trauma definitely jacks up our risk for all sorts of adult issues.
But childhood trauma doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to cope better. Toxic relationships do not forever condemn us to a crushed life.
I believe that the Church is called to build resilience and I’m not just talking about memorizing verses about God loving the sparrow – although those verses are true. I’m talking about redeeming trauma. I’m talking about nurturing healthy relationships.
Yes, I’m talking about the Church here.
(And yes – dysfunctional congregations cause trauma and sick relationships. Those congregations are not serving God.)
According to this article in the NYT series, resilient people share these characteristics:
- They have a positive, realistic outlook.
They have a moral compass.
They have a belief in something greater than themselves.
They are altruistic; they have a concern for others and a degree of selflessness.
They accept what they cannot change and focus energy on what they can change.
They have a mission, a meaning, a purpose.
They have a social support system, and they support others.
How are our congregations modeling these characteristics? How do we see these characteristics in the life of Jesus? (Can you think of a more resilient human being than Jesus?)
How can we build resilience to the glory of God – not merely for our own sakes, but for the purpose of being strong enough to help others cope?
How can we create healthy toolboxes for God’s people? The world is going to need them for a long, long time.