Dear family and friends……Although I usually post my monthly story at the end of the month, this one has made such an emotional impact on me that I cannot continue to hold these thoughts quietly in my heart….. I need to share them. I hope doing so will encourage you to seek the resilience that comes from a faith walk….. jfh
Do you ever look at someone and write their life story in your mind?
The attractive blonde in your neighborhood who is “happily” married with three children, one dog, and two goldfish. Her life must be soooo wonderful.
Or the older woman who seems like a ball of energy and moves at the speed of light. Surely she never has a down day.
We pass people in hallways of life and say “how are you” without really wanting a reply. We toss out a “good to see you” as we stroll quickly past them.
It is the nature of life to interact on a surface level with countless people and most of the time, “it is what it is” and there is no changing the shallow intimacy we share among friends and acquaintances.
But sometimes…… we get lucky. We get to really hear another person’s story.
That happened to me last weekend. My church, St. David’s Episcopal, had a 3-day Women’s Retreat at St. Mary’s in Sewanee, Tennessee. More than 40 women shared meals and time with each other. But, more importantly, they shared stories about themselves and their faith walk—in large and small group settings.
I was humbled as I listened to their stories….. struggles too hard for me to comprehend….. the challenges….. all spoken by women of whom I had a limited “good to see you” knowledge of.
I had no idea of the depth of their stories until that weekend.
What struck me the most was their resilience. Their ability to take what life threw at them and to keep on keeping on.
As one dug deeper, it became more obvious their resilience was not based on sheer force—on merely “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” and blindly willing themselves to survive. Their resilience stemmed from their faith in God, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit.
Let me make this perfectly clear—at no time did I hear a story implying God is like Santa Claus—if we pray hard enough or we are good enough then He will answer our prayers and we get a perfect life.
Their lives were far from perfect. They experienced events that would have made me raise my fist at heaven and yell out “Why God Why?”
And I am sure they did that from time to time.
But in spite of the challenges and pain, their faith message was….. they survived because they knew God walked with them….. He understood their struggles….. and He would provide them with grace and grit to face the challenges.
I realize some of you do not think there is a God much less that Jesus ever existed….. you view faith as a crutch….. something Christians use as a pat answer to life’s problems. But if you had heard the words spoken by these women, you would realize their faith was not a flimsy wooden crutch. It was more than that.
Their faith was like a sword….. to be used to defend….. to cut through.
Their faith was like an anchor….. to hold and re-center them when the waves of life tossed them about.
Their faith provided these women with the ability to leave the land of self-pity—to find a way out of darkness. Or, if they were still in the midst of challenges and pain, to give them the strength to move forward—and to do it with their hope and courage intact—to be resilient.
The funny thing about resilience….. you don’t recognize it in yourself until you have gone through the challenges and one day you wake up and realize you are still standing….. and standing tall.
You don’t start out being resilient. You grow into it.
Just as you grow into a stronger faith walk.
I looked at the various faces I saw over that weekend….. older faces….. younger faces….. blonde hair….. grey hair….. blue or brown eyes….. women whose faith had been tested or, whose faith was still being tested.
Faces of women that I knew simply from passing them in the hallways at St. David’s. Faces of women whose stories were much different than the ones I had written in my mind about them.
The truth is….. their real stories were richer than any story I could have ever created. I know their stories are making me look more closely at my own.
For me, the challenge always remains….. to write a life story where faith plays a role even when I have my own personal struggles with the questions that arise….. the “why” questions of which there are no good answers.
What about your story? Does faith play a role in it?
And if not…. Are you willing to include a faith inspired sentence or two in the next chapter of your life?
Faces of Resilience – Grace and Grit in Action