What is spiritual resilience? Up against circustances that could ruin us, spiritual resilience is well-described in the above text/photo box.
Given the predicaments that confront us individually and collectively—including the entire earth-community—spiritual resilience is the capacity to pass through the most terrible darkness or suffering, while holding on to the hope that safe passage will be granted, one way or the other; in time and in eternity.
(Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.)
Recently I passed through a valley of grief; layer upon layer of grief. If you are among my close friends, you probably heard about some of these grievous events. I do not hold my sorrows quietly. In fact, in previous issues of this newsletter, I shared some of the layers. A crazy part of these layers is that twice I had completed, I thought, the fearsome journey through shadows only to wake up the next morning to the presence of another monster size loss. Intolerable, it seemed.
Yet, deep within there was this Presence that I would not give up on, nor would She (Weh’ Ha’ mu’ Kwasset—She Who Brings the Light) give up on me. Today, for the moment, I am beyond the grief, feeling the joy, enjoying this windy and cool fall day, delighting in the aroma of chicken curry cooking in my kitchen, looking forward to soccer tomorrow with the grandchildren, plus something else…
That something else is my awareness that so very many people who are on my radar screen, in my prayers, in my circle of active caring, are facing losses, sufferings present and descending diseases of body, mind and spirit, that they are in no ways capable of handling. Spiritual resilience is a precious commodity, a pearl without price; but still, most often, a treasure that is not being sought with all deliberate effort and speed. We are deep into a perilous season of spiritual and emotional trauma. I think the worst in human history; the sixth mass extinction. Collapsing systems, like wealth, that have too long been our gods. Yet, most folks keep hoping for a return to some kind of “normal,” instead of returning to God and community.
Today is October 16. My devotional mentor, Oswald Chambers, is trying to remind Christians, past and present, that their job # 1 is prayer—staying close to God, for heaven’s sake, and their own sakes!!! But so many servants of Jesus think that Job 1 involves doing something, achieving something as they work themselves into oblivion.
This past Wednesday I was talking with a pastoral counselor whose work brings her in close contact with many Christian servants, like pastors, who are exhausted, burned out, disabled, but still unwilling/unable to take spiritual and emotional care of themselves. You can give them the precious gift of spiritual direction, free, and they will detour around it as if it was nothing more than an obstacle in their way of getting more work done. They are thinking, as Chambers writes:
“Prayer is not practical, it is absurd; we have to realize that prayer is stupid…”
That same day, last Wednesday, I heard the leaders of the American Baptist Churches of Ohio acknowledging that their pastors are “exhausted.” Translated, that means, they do not have the spiritual resilience to continue their ministries amidst the traumas of pandemic, hateful divisions, and the griefs, sufferings and traumas of their lives and the lives of those they serve.
We Baptists of Ohio are going to do something about this. We have promised. Personally, I have promised. Yet, what will happen when we show the pastors where the treasures of spiritual resilience are “buried”? When we even have given them a shovel? And have taken another shovel in hand to help them dig? But they remain frightened. By what? By what they will unearth if they allow the Spirit to dig below the surfaces of their lives!?
THERE IS NO WAY TO CARE FOR OTHERS IN THEIR TRAUMAS UNLESS YOU HAVE, AND ARE, BRINGING YOUR OWN TO GOD IN PRAYER, A LOT. SPIRITUAL RESILIENCE IS JOB 1. (What is Job 2? Community. See Acts 2: 43-47.)
Personally, I am long past the time when I would give pastors, lay-ministers, others who seek accreditation of some kind, like ordination, licensing, recommendations, the choice. Too many are too wounded to choose well. If you want my (our) affirmation, you will be able to tell me (us) how prayer is central to your life and ministry. And, you will be able to tell me (us) to whom you are accountable (Spiritual Director? Counselor? Support Group?) for sustaining your emotional health and building your spiritual resilience.
We are so very far past the time when such things as disciplines of the spiritual life can be optional, in the name of some kind of vague understanding of freedom, for leaders within the Body of Christ. Churches have long told their pastors that they expected them to preach from the Bible. They expected them to visit the sick. Why can we tell pastors that we expect them to take good care of themselves and their families!?