By Rev. Jim Innes
The picture accompanying this article exposes extraordinary Resiliency.
Captured from within our northern landscape, this evergreen stood tall despite the erosion and rock fall. It has long been lodged in its rock footing and looks forever rooted against the wind and winter. This tree's remarkable toughness stands out strikingly in an alluring land rugged with scars.
There's astonishing beauty in Resilience.
"We will question the fate of humanity; the existence of God; the reason we all suffer in the first place. And then Resilience enters the room, the most elegant of emotional beings; glowing; refined; a reminder that even a flicker of light glows amid the darkness. And we can save our tiny ship of troubles from life's stormy seas once again (S. Schwartzbach, Trauma nurse)."
Resilience is about surviving and is marked by standing steady even when circumstances are painful or absurd. It is Courage supported by unquenchable Hope. And as such becomes a glorious splash of light breaking through the darkness. A light that often remains hidden (or unknown) until that darkness comes.
Mental health researchers speak of Resilience as being hardwired into our DNA. Like an immune response, when our bodies and minds are challenged by adversity, we automatically engage in the work of returning to 'normalcy' (or creating a new normal). Which means bouncing back after adversity with a sense of mastery and control over our environment, life, and future.
It's beautiful to witness another shake off life's damage and step more confidently, compassionately, and perceptively into their future.
As I see it, Resiliency is the origin of all such wisdom. Each time we face adversity, trauma, and tragedy, Resiliency increasingly matures within us as character and 'heart.' Buddhists believe that suffering is necessary for moral development and enlightenment.
Similarly, Christian theology teaches (Rom 5, 3-5), "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us. Comparably, a Muslim (Ahmadiyya) prophet once stated were it not for "sorrows, afflictions, and diseases, man [humanity] would not have even been moved to think and develop and he would have become a static object like a stone."
With the right people around us and the right mindset within, we are far more resilient than we realize. When the ground inconveniently shifts and our world suddenly spins, we will be engaging life's most brutal teacher, the experience of pain and humility. This is not an experience we ask for or feel we need. Nonetheless, it is an experience we will inevitably face. And, too often, when we climb one hill, we bring into view the mountain range ahead of us. Yet, within us, a small voice carries us in and through the dark tangle of confusing thoughts and projections. It is the powerful influence of our will to survive.
Most notable about the accompanying picture is the hard-wearing roots clinging stubbornly to the face of the rock. There are other roots, less noticeable, that have burrowed incredibly deep into the cracks. When I first saw this tree, I thought miracle. And that is because such hardiness is an unbelievable phenomenon. An awesome wonder. A beautiful testimony of life holding its own despite a world crumbling beneath it.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.