Reclaiming Our Resilience
by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones
The word resilience rings like a chime through adrienne maree brown’s book, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. (She spells her name all lowercase.) This powerful, action-inspiring book has shifted the way I think about resilience and, in fact, the way I think about myself and all of us humans in these times of change.
In the introduction, for example, brown writes of her fascination with dandelions and mushrooms, “which we think of as weeds and fungi” but which are remarkably built to survive and thrive. “I love to see the way mushrooms can take substances we think of as toxic,” brown describes, “and process them as food, or that dandelions spread not only themselves but their community structure … The resilience of these life forms is that they evolve while maintaining core practices that ensure their survival.”
I’ve added the italics in this quotation because of the analogies to our own lives that these examples lift up. How can we too learn to take what’s toxic—the experiences that might destroy our spirits and our hope—and transform them into a food we need to survive? How can we come to understand that our individual survival and growth depend not on our solo efforts but on our capacity to truly include the communities of which we are a part? How can we strengthen both our willingness to adapt and change and our commitment to our core principles and practices (remember the theme of Integrity from January)?
Resilience, I see now, means not just our individual capacity to make it through a hard time, not just the willingness to rise again when we’ve been knocked down. But it’s also the gift of remaining true to ourselves even as we adapt to our shifting circumstances. It’s both/and—a flexibility and a sturdiness.
What’s more, resilience is never really a solo project, even though our radically (and destructively) individualistic society has tried to convince us that it is. Resilience has to be the work of the whole community, just like trees sending signals to protect each other when danger is near or tending to each other’s roots when a neighbor is ill. We need each other to survive.
And make no mistake, beloveds, I believe we are indeed up against the very question of our ethical, spiritual, and physical survival. We may not all agree about just how dire the situation is right now for our species, but I know we can come together around our desire to listen and learn and emerge into a new, radically rooted, resilient way of embodying and cooperating with the changes we most need to make.
Resilience. If we want to discover a strength and a hope that are real, tangible, and sustainable, then the main quality we need to develop—in ourselves and in our community—is resilience.
So I couldn’t be more excited about how we’ll explore this theme in February. We’ll take it up in worship and in small groups; at our Soup, Bread, and Conversation on Sunday, February 9; in our adult faith formation class that begins the journey through Mistakes and Miracles: Congregations on the Road to Multiculturalism, as well as in our children’s faith formation programs each Sunday and our middle schoolers’ (and their parents’) exploration of a positive sexuality through OWL.
I’m willing to bet that we’ll feel stronger—as individuals and as a community—when this month is done. Please join us!
With faith in our emerging resilience,