“Reigniting! A Sense of Resilience”

July 26, 2020


Robin McGonigle
University Congregational Church
July 26, 2020

Reigniting! A Sense of Resilience
Joshua 1:9 and II Tim 1:7

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” II Tim. 1:7

As we continue our series about Reigniting! our lives, today’s theme is resilience. Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress. Or, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty. Who among us doesn’t want to be resilient?

I want to cover three areas of life that help develop resilience:
1. Following your “bliss”
2. Finding your own positive concept of God
3. Asking for God’s help
4. Exercise
5. Exploring nature

The great mythologist and teacher Joseph Campbell told his students to “follow their bliss”. He told them that the “universe would open doors” for them. He was offering them a lifetime of experience and truth when he taught them that when a person is doing what he/she is supposed to be doing, things typically will fall into place.

Whether you call it synchronicity or coincidence or a greater power or God, when you are doing the right things at the right time, doors begin to open and opportunities begin to appear. Recently, a member of the church sent a text about this phenomenon and he said, “by now you know I don’t believe in coincidence” … meaning that he believes that a divine power causes these things to occur!

Today we are going to explore how to Reignite! our lives with resiliency. One of the key elements in living a resilient life, writes Julia Cameron, is finding your own unique concept of God. It may or may not be a religious God… or it may be a more generalized sense of spiritual guidance or “instinct”. She likes to think of God as “good orderly direction” or as a benevolent force, a cocreator, a guide and protector.

She notes, as many theologians have, that many people grow into late adulthood still thinking of God in very childish ways. Even people who have attended church for decades have not changed their concept of God since childhood. If that is the case, it may be time to have a spiritual overhaul.

Cameron suggests that we do a simple, but profound exercise. This is a quick writing process, and I think you will find it worth your time. So, take a moment to get a piece of paper and a writing utensil. Jot down a few traits of your childhood God – my childhood god was:
*all knowing

Next list the traits of a God you would design yourself.
I would love my God to be:
• Loving
• Accessible
• Creative
• Feminine
• Nurturing

Now that you have imagined God this positive way, ask for God’s help. If there is something you have been struggling with, ask this God for help. If there is an ache in your heart, offer it to your imagined God. Write out your request to your imagined God. The answers you may hear could surprise and delight you.

Perhaps your concept of the Holy has been limiting you and not allowing you to hear God’s voice completely. Joshua 1:9 reminds us:

“I hereby command you: be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Julia Cameron tells a story of Ethan, who had been raised in a religious home, but when he recalled his upbringing, he noted that religion elicited fear. “I believed God was always watching… I was nervous to make a wrong move.” Ethan wanted to try songwriting but was afraid his ideas were stale and unworkable. “I never would have connected my fear of creating to my concept of God. The music I loved was pop, not spiritual. I wasn’t yearning to write hymns, and so I thought God might disapprove. I think it’s possible that’s what is stopping me.” As Ethan began to redesign his own notion of God, thinking more of a general positive source than the negative, fearful God he had once tiptoed around, he started to feel excited to try songwriting for the first time. He sat at the piano daily, listening for melodies and writing down what he heard.

“Maybe they do come from some higher place – whether it’s within me or outside of me. Maybe it doesn’t matter where they come from.” Trusting in a divine source, whatever that may be, Ethan found himself composing more freely. Part of learning resilience is learning to be in touch with a divine power and to know deep within our souls that we are not alone on the journey – that, as the writer of Joshua says, God is with us always.

Another essential element to resilience is exercise. Exercise clears our minds and connects us to a source of spiritual support. If we can, going outside is in itself, a spiritual experience. Breathing fresh air has been a life enhancer during this stay-at-home order. Allowing our heart rate to increase is shown to bring us optimism and a sense of accomplishment that carries us through the day. Of course, choosing to do exercise one day at a time is the key to success. Don’t wait until a new week starts or a class at the gym is beginning. Start today with a walk and then commit to one action per day. If you are seeking to up your resilience in this life, exercise is an essential thing to include!

It only stands to reason that our resilience is connected to nature. We were created to live in this world and to enjoy it. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Live in the sunshine. Swim the sea. Drink the wild air’s salubrity.” It is in nature that many of us feel closest to our higher power, or God. And it is in nature that we also find resilience. A starry night in the mountain air can make my heart stir like nothing else.
Sunflowers along a Kansas highway with a hawk soaring overhead…
a gnarly tree trunk…
a spring thunderstorm…
the smell and sound of ocean waves crashing on the beach…
a honeybee buzzing along a hedgerow of honeysuckle vines…
the pink froth of a cherry tree…
a mountain river tumbling over rocks freely…
a walk in the redwood forest where the sky is barely visible and the forest floor is covered with moss and ancient flora…

These are the sights, smells, and sounds that stir the soul. This world is beautiful and we are intended to love its many delights. Albert Einstein wrote, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

When we connect with nature, we grow and connect to our higher selves and to others. Our worlds expand. And this brings us full circle. As we explore nature, we discover even more about ourselves and our higher power. We find our bliss and we are resilient! Thanks be to God.

Resources Used:
Cameron, Julia. “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again”. New York: Penguin
Random House. 2016.