Resilience, Faith, and Religious Symbols

Posted By on August 13, 2019


[music playing]>>PROFESSOR JANE E.
REGAN: Melissa Kelley serves as associate professor
of pastoral care and counseling and is faculty
director of the M.Div. program here at
Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. She holds a Master’s degree
from Boston College Institute of Religious Education
and Pastoral Ministry, and a Ph.D. in Pastoral
Theology from Boston University. Prior to joining the
faculty at Weston, Dr. Kelley served in
pastoral clinical roles for about 14 years,
in campus ministry at both Emmanuel College
and Boston College, and presently she serves
as a pastoral formation guide with the Metropolitan
Boston Association of the United Church of Christ. She’s written widely
and taught extensively on the topic of grief and loss. She’s also looked at pastoral
care and counseling as well as death and dying. Her research interests
also include pastoral care of the family,
prophetic pastoral care, and pastoral formation
for ministry, and she’s the author
of the book Grief: Contemporary Theory and
the Practice of Ministry that was published by Augsburg
Fortress Press in 2010. Dr. Kelley is a
fellow and nationally certified pastoral counselor
through the American Association of
Pastoral Counselors. She is also certified in
Thanatology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement through the
Association for Death Education and Counseling, which is
the primary organization in the United States for
bereavement researchers, educators, and clinicians. She is a good friend of us,
here in Continuing Education, and presents for us
fairly frequently. We’re always happy to have her. She’s a fine teacher, as
you’ll find out today, and a good scholar whose
work in theology and ministry makes her a perfect example
of what the School of Theology and Ministry is about. Please join me in welcoming Dr.
Melissa Kelley for “Resilience, Faith, and Religious Symbols.” Melissa. [applause]>>DR. MELISSA KELLEY:
Thank you very much, Jane. I laughed at the announcement
that anything that we say is recorded in perpetuity. I felt that pressure
this morning when I was deciding
what to wear. How will this look in 40 years? It’s a new day in terms of
digital pressure, which is not unrelated to today’s topic. And I want to thank all of you
for coming to this workshop. I know people are busy. Time for something like
this is often rare, and so I’m very grateful
to you for coming. Here’s what I hope
we will do today. We are going to talk
about resilience. What is it? Why do we need it? And what is some
of the current work that we can draw on to
inform our understanding of resilience. Then we’ll have
two opportunities for some reflection
and discussion. I’ll say more about that
when we get to those points. And then the second
to last bullet there, I hope we can start
to make some connections, draw from our wisdom,
lived experience, ideas to connect resilience
with the life of faith. How do we bring these
together in a meaningful way? We will take a
break around 11:00, and we will end
promptly at 12:30. I want to say, too, in
terms of the faith piece, that I will be talking in an
explicitly Christian framework because that’s my worldview. That’s my faith, and
it’s also the area in which I have done some
consideration, some research, in terms of resilience. I think looking
beyond Christianity is a critically interesting,
important topic. It’s just not one
that I can do today. But I have been thinking
that looking at resilience within and across
traditions could be just a really
interesting source of fruitful
interreligious dialogue. So what are we
talking about when we begin to speak of resilience? And I want to say, first,
as you probably know well, this is a huge topic of
interest in many, many fields. I feel like my ears are
so attuned to hearing about resilience, that now I do
hear it virtually everywhere. I heard it driving
into work yesterday. Somebody did a whole
news program on the radio on resilience. I heard it in a
commercial last night. It’s just kind of around us. We’re swimming in
these waters now. The other day on Amazon I
checked how many items– you know you don’t always
have to specify on Amazon. You just– items. How many items on Amazon
have to do with resilience? And it’s over 10,000. So people are
interested in this. I’m interested in this. So we will look at a particular
piece of resilience today, and beginning with
this framework that I’d like to suggest. Resilience is related to stress. So when I am faced with
stress, challenge, difficulty, struggle, I have
to do something. I have to respond in some
way because I’m alive. I’m here. So what will I do? I have to cope. Stress challenges, triggers
our coping responses. And as we know, some coping
is very helpful and effective, and some isn’t. Some attempts to cope
might help us at least get through the moment, survive. And that’s good,
that’s necessary. But it may not do
much more than that. Resilience is
interested in the more. One of the questions
of resilience can be framed this
way: how might we cope when we’re facing
stress in ways that allow us, at least with time,
to do more than survive, to adapt well, to function
well, and maybe even to thrive? This idea of thriving
shows up a lot in the definitions
of resilience. I want to say something about
that right from the get-go. I have heard,
sometimes, from folks when I’m talking
about resilience and this word thrive comes up. Sometimes people have expressed
concern, “Well, wait a minute.” When we talk about
resilience, are we talking about somehow
skipping over suffering? Being sort of airlifted
across terrible stress? Is this a way out? And then that would be
interesting and challenging theologically, at least. So let me say, that’s not
what we’re talking about. Resilience is
looking at the fact that terrible things happen. Stress is constant. Struggle is inevitable. Given that, how might we cope? How might we respond in ways
that could approach thriving? Okay? So that’s the framework
that I’d like to propose. And as a definition
to get us started, I’d like to offer this. This is from Public
Broadcasting, PBS. I don’t know if any of you
have seen on their website, there’s a really
interesting series of programs called This
Emotional Life, where they take up different
emotions or different emotional experiences. And so one of them that
they take up is resilience. It’s everywhere. And so this is one
of the definitions that I have found on that site. “We have many ways of
overcoming adversity. Resilience is the capacity
to adapt successfully in the face of
threats or disaster. People can improve their
capacity for resilience at any time of life.” So what I’d like
to highlight there is this idea of
adapting successfully. Again, it’s not about escaping. It’s not about running, somehow,
from suffering as if we could, but adapting successfully. And that last sentence too,
“we can become more resilient at any time of life,”
which I find quite hopeful. Some of you who are in the field
of psychology or social work or chaplaincy, you probably
have observed, as I have, that often there’s an
emphasis on problems, what we’re not doing well,
what’s tripping us up. What I love about
the resilience work is it’s actually very hopeful:
here’s what we can do. Any of us can become more
resilient at any time. It might be quite incremental,
but the possibility is there. That also means there’s
no excuses, you know? It’s not a matter
of temperament. So I could try, but the
research doesn’t bear it out. I can’t say, “Well, you know,
I just wasn’t born resilient. Some people are. I’m not. There’s nothing I
can do about it.” Oh, yes there is. So it’s sort of a hopeful
challenge, I think. Now, why do we need
to be resilient? Because every now and then,
probably, occasionally we experience some stress. Anyone in this room ever
experienced a little bit of stress? Every now and then I do. So where there’s
stress, there’s coping. Where there’s coping, there’s
the need for resilience. I’m going to be using
this idea of stress because that’s what shows
up a lot in the literature. But I want to suggest,
we can broaden that out for our own thinking today. We can think about loss. We can think about grief. We can think about trauma. We can think about
overwhelming challenge. All of those things can
create stress, of course, so I’m going to use stress
as the umbrella term. But let’s think broadly. These next few slides, I’m
going to just sort of lift up some of the potential
sources of stress that we may be experiencing,
not to create stress. This isn’t an experiment
so that then I can prove how helpful
resilience is. My hope here is
that, first of all, I think it’s often
helpful to name sort of what it is that
we are trying to counter or contend with. But I’m also hoping
that, maybe, if you wish, today could also
be an opportunity to release some stress
you may be carrying. Or based on what we learn
or review about resilience, that it may be an opportunity
to strategize about something that causes stress in your life. So in naming it, whatever it
is that might be on our hearts or minds today,
maybe if you wish that can be part of what you
bring to our reflections. So certainly we all know
stress on the personal level and the level of family. Some of the things we
may be contending with, work-life balance. I used to not really know
what that term meant. Now I do. It’s how do we balance all
of the demands on our lives, relationships with friends,
family, colleagues, raising children, caring
for grandchildren, caring for nieces and
nephews, finances, dealing with the cost of
living, health, illness, maybe getting a scary
diagnosis, aging, the stress that can
come with aging, the changes that accompany that. Maybe even for some of
us thinking more and more about mortality, our own
or that of someone we love, someone we care about, and more. There’s just a tremendous
amount of stress, at times, on the personal
and familial level. Then there’s work and ministry. My desk is approaching that. It’s just a bad time
of the semester. I feel like I’m swimming
in paper, sometimes. Whatever our work is, our
ministry, whether we’re in a workplace,
working in the home, raising children, studying,
ministry in any setting, there is likely stress,
at least at times. And what happens with
work and ministry is that people have
expectations of us. We have responsibilities,
so we have to constantly be trying to
assess, what can I reasonably do here? And what happens if I can’t
meet all these expectations? We may need to
watch for burnout, which is a significant risk in
work life and ministry life. National politics and struggles,
you know, I want to be clear. There are many, many,
wonderful, good things happening at the national level,
but personally I feel like the stress is
also crazy, as we just see, what seem to me to be these
divisions in our country just solidifying. Maybe it has been this bad
or worse, historically. In my life I don’t
remember a time this bad, and it feels very
stressful to me. You know, we can see urgent
problems confronting us and no clear sense,
for me, of how we’re going to take
up these struggles in any sort of mutually
respectful and productive way. And I also find
it very troubling to imagine what children
are learning about politics in this particular era. So I don’t know if any
of you are like me, I have to be really
careful how much news I listen to because my
stress level goes up. And then, of course,
we know there’s such stress in terms of global
suffering, global strife. Again, there are many
wonderful things happening around the world, but we also
see so much pain, instability, conflict. The UN High Commissioner for
Refugees on their website reports that we are witnessing
today the highest levels of displacement on record. This is from the website: “An
unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world
have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4
million refugees, over half of whom are under 18.” Yeah, and we see this. We see this on the news. We are constantly challenged
with, what’s to be done? What do we do? What do our churches do? What does our nation do? And the stress of that
can be considerable. But of course, the people
living the experience are dealing with an entirely
different sort of stress, but it’s all of a piece. And then, finally,
I just want to name ecclesial concerns can be a
significant source of stress. And what those concerns might
be will be quite varied. Some churches worry about
declining membership, theological divisions
that are stressing some faith communities,
fiscal stability, leadership questions. Certainly we– you know, I
know that in the Catholic world of which I’m a part, many
of us and maybe most of us are just reeling,
constantly, from disclosures about the unspeakable abuse
of children and some adults, and the systemic problems
that we see with addressing and responding with
consistent honesty, transparency, and humility. And I find it just
incredibly stressful also, for me to have absolutely no
clear sense of how the Church will emerge from this. I don’t think, I
imagine we’re not going to know for quite some time. So there’s stress. And, of course there would
be other sources too. When we come to a
discussion period, you might want to
add some others. So we need to be resilient. And so I want to draw now,
as we think about resilience, from this book, which
I recommend to you. Some of you, perhaps,
have seen it already. This is the second edition
of a book called Resilience: the Science of Mastering Life’s
Greatest Challenges, written by two people in the
psych world, Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney. And this edition
came out last year. And the picture, I don’t
know how well you can see it, they chose part of
Winslow Homer’s painting called The Lifeline. It’s a woman being
rescued from a shipwreck, and so in this book,
Southwick and Charney are doing us quite a service. They have culled countless
studies on resilience. What do we know
about resilience? So it’s not just their
own work; they’re culling all these other sources
and summarizing it for us. They also have done
their own interviews with people, groups
of people, who’ve gone through terrible stress,
such as prisoners of war. They’ve done
extensive interviews with some prisoners of war,
members of Special Forces divisions of the military,
and then citizens who have gone through terrible
tragedies and traumas. And so they also lift
up themes that they hear from all of these interviews. I do want to say to you,
it’s a very accessible book. It’s a very readable book. But as you can imagine,
some of the stories are very harrowing,
very, very disturbing. So keep that in mind if
you decide to read it. But what they
offer us, which I’d like to offer our
conversation today, is they identify ten what they
call “resilience factors.” In all of the studies
that they have explored, and in all of the
interviews they have done, what are some common
elements, factors that seem to relate
to resilience, support resilience, and
cultivate resilience? And they identify ten. So I’m just going to
give you a brief sense. The first factor is optimism. I’m going to give you
a brief sense of what they’re suggesting
about these ten factors. When we do our second
part of the work on faith, we’re going to look in greater
detail at five of these. But let me share
what the ten are. The first is optimism. And what they mean by this is
a future-oriented attitude, a confidence that,
going forward, things will turn out well. It may not be clear
yet how, but I have confidence things will go well. It’s a belief people have
that they can succeed, they can rise to the challenges. But, interestingly,
it’s not blind optimism. Their understanding of optimism
is people get the reality that they’re up against. They’re not in denial. They’re not Pollyanna-ish. They take in the reality,
how bad things are, and they have confidence
that they will do whatever they have to do. They tend to do a lot of
active problem solving, and they tend to
find their lives more meaningful than pessimists do. That’s interesting. So that’s the first
resilience factor, optimism. The second, facing fears. And they help us realize
through lots of studies that when we deal
regularly with fear, it actually takes a toll on us. And any of us who’ve struggled
with fear, we know that. You know, it can
keep people home. It can keep people
from doing things they really would like to do. It can shut us down. It can lead to
physical difficulties. Okay, so living with
persistent or chronic fear is not a good thing. They have identified
that the resilient people that they have
studied and read about seem to face their fears. They say, quote, “the best way
around fear is through it.” So these folks tend to see
fear as an opportunity. They may not relish it, but
they feel that somehow they’re going to grow from this. This will be helpful to them. They often face their
fears with friends, with spiritual support,
and they may actually seek out people or organizations
that will push them. Like if they identify,
“I’m afraid of grad school, I’m afraid of, can I
really do that work?” They may find a
school that’s really going to push them
to conquer that fear. The third resilience
factor is what they call moral compass,
ethics, and altruism. And they have
identified that people who can name their core
moral or ethical values and are trying to live by them,
tend to be more resilient. People who demonstrate moral
courage, doing what they feel is right even when it’s going
to cost them in some way. And related to this is altruism,
having that as a primary value and living that. So they say, quote, “Actively
identifying your core values, assessing the degree to which
you are living by these values, and challenging yourself
to adopt a higher standard can strengthen character
and build resilience.” Now the fourth one
may not surprise us. Clearly across many,
many, many, many studies, and I’ve seen this
quite a lot as well, people who identify with
some sort of religion or who consider
themselves very spiritual, tend to be more resilient. Now these are not
all or nothing. But these are tendencies we see. So in their interviews,
they heard over and over from people who had
survived and adapted well to terrible life
events, that religion and/or spirituality was
a critical part of that. Sometimes the religion
or spirituality is what people turn to, to
actually survive the trauma. And they give a lot of
examples from prisoners of war who described how undergoing
these awful experiences, they just kept praying, or
they just kept imagining God as present to them. Or whatever it was
that was meaningful to them, that that was
a critical part of how they saw their survival. For others, this becomes
important as a way of healing after the fact. They name some of the aspects
of religion and spirituality that seem significant. So for instance, it can be very
important for people struggling with guilt or forgiveness. So sometimes they give examples
of folks who’ve been in combat and may have needed to do things
that they then struggle with, and need some sense
of release from guilt and some sense of forgiveness. They cite many studies, you’ve
probably seen these too, that people connected with
religion or spirituality tend, it’s associated with better
mental and physical health and longevity. People tend to live longer. And that seems to be the
case across world religions. They do offer one
caution, which is that there’s some very good
research in an area called religious coping. What are some of the
specific aspects of religion that we might turn to, to cope? And some religious
coping is associated with really good outcomes,
and some religious coping is associated with
not so good outcomes. One of the what some people
call negative religious coping aspects is when people
struggle with the idea of God as abandoning them
or as uncaring. And that may be a
significant part of their religious worldview. But that sort of idea that
God has abandoned me and God doesn’t care very much
about me, in some studies those beliefs are associated
with very negative outcomes, which probably
isn’t a shock to us. So always there’s a need to have
a lot of nuance around this, but this is one of the
resilience factors. Then number five,
social support, you’ve probably seen this too. I see this maybe more
than anything else in the literature,
that people who feel that they have a
lot of social support, they’re part of
networks of care, they tend to be more resilient. And, interestingly, it also
works the other way, too. People who tend to support
others, who are altruistic, who want to be that
safety net for others, they also tend to
be more resilient. So that social support
goes both ways. Number six, they talk
about the importance of having role models,
people who have demonstrated resilience to us. Now we may or may not ever
have met these people. They may be dead or alive. They may be younger than us. They may be older than us. It doesn’t matter. Who are the people who
have modeled that capacity to deal with terrible life
events and keep going? And they give the example
of Nelson Mandela. And I think often of
grandparents who are sometimes actively involved in the
lives of their grandkids and sometimes raising
their grandkids for varieties of reasons,
you know, these role models. They also say, and I think
this is something we might not think about automatically, that
sometimes our role models might be what they call
negative role models. Who are the people whose coping
has seemed to not work well for them and, therefore,
that’s a role model for you of how not to cope? Right? That we learn from everyone in
terms of how people are coping. And then resilience factor
number seven, physical fitness. This is sometimes when I
feel myself inwardly groan. This one’s hard for me. But it seems clear
from many, many studies that a commitment to
physical well-being, to physical training, to
taking up physical challenges that really test us and
then accomplishing them, trying hard to accomplish
them, that that has tremendous positive
effects on our physical health and our mental health. We know it decreases the
risk for some diseases. It increases self-esteem,
brain function, memory. I have been hearing
in many circles that when folks are
struggling with at least some forms of dementia or
at least early dementia, one neurologist told me,
hands down, even more effective than any
medication is exercise because it stimulates the
production of new brain cells. So we know this. We’re learning more
and more about this. That idea of physical fitness
connected to resilience, not only does it
keep us healthier, but it also kind
of keeps our bodies primed for whatever it is we
are going to have to cope with. Will we be strong enough? Will we be rested enough? Will we be healthy enough
to do what we have to do? And three more. Number eight, brain fitness. I’m going to pause
just for a moment while everybody looks
at the purple square, if you can see it. Yeah? Do you see the mistake? It’s in the word mistake. Yeah, I didn’t get
that right away. But that’s an example
of how we understand, we have to keep our
brains mentally sharp. So we hear a lot
about brain training, and I’ve seen some
controversial findings about whether some of these
brain training programs are effective, whether
they do what they say. What these authors recommend
is just keep learning. Just keep learning new skills,
new languages, new ideas, just keep learning. That’s maybe one of the best
ways to train our brains. They say, quote,
“In our experience, resilient people tend to be
lifelong learners, continually seeking opportunities to
become more mentally fit. We never know when we
will be called upon to meet a challenge that
requires mental sharpness and keen regulation of
our emotions,” end quote. So the brain fitness is
about keeping ourselves mentally sharp, but
it’s also related to emotional regulation. We also have to have the ability
to work with our emotions and not be overwhelmed by
them or undone by them. And that’s part
of brain fitness. We see in many, many studies
that mindfulness exercises seem very important here,
and any sort of focus, discipline, activity that
helps us stay in the moment. So you know, some people
love mindfulness meditation, for some people it’s
prayer, maybe the Examen, where I review my day and I’m
in the moment as best I can. That is a helpful way
to manage emotions because I’m paying
attention to, okay, I feel myself getting really
angry or anxious or sad or whatever it might be. I wonder what’s going on. And being curious
more than reactive, that’s a part of
that brain training. And then two more: cognitive
emotional flexibility, let me stop here for a moment. Do you see two things
in this picture? What do we see first? The cup, the black cup. Do you see anything else? The profiles– if you
think about that black cup, the edges of them
as the beginning of profiles of people’s faces. So maybe that’s an example of
what they’re talking about, this idea of flexibility. They say people
who are resilient tend to be flexible, flexible
in the way they think about challenges, and
flexible in the way they react emotionally to stress. So can I be adaptable? Can I shift from one coping
mechanism to another? If something’s not
working, do I keep doing it and just let it
not work some more? Or can I shift to
another way of coping? Resilient folks tend
to learn from failure. They can be flexible in
that way, like, okay, well that didn’t work. And I’ll try something
else next time. They’re not rigid thinkers. Like there’s only one way
to solve this problem, and this is it. And they are also
not rigid feelers. You know, they may be upset
in one moment about something, but then they can
at least with time say, “Okay, I understand that
wasn’t the only way I could have responded, and let
me think about what else I’m feeling here, or what
else you’re feeling.” They also do what they call
positive re-appraisal, which some of us would
think of as reframing. You know, if I have a problem
and I try to reframe it. You know, I often think it’s
helpful to think literally of sort of a picture in a frame. I used to have a painting that
I bought at a retreat house, and it came framed. And so the picture
looked a certain way. And then one day, I
forget what happened, maybe the frame broke. And so I took off the old frame. Well, it turns out, there was a
painting under that old frame. So quite literally,
when I reframed it, it was a very different picture. That’s what life is like. You know, if I have a difficulty
or a major stressor in my life, can I reframe it? There’s rarely only one way
to think about something. Can I reframe this? You know, I might even
go so far as to say, can I reframe this in
any way from a problem to an opportunity? Now we know, some
things it would be hard to see opportunity in it. But is there any
part of this that I can reframe in order, then,
to cope in a different way? So that’s what they mean
by cognitive emotional flexibility. This is also related to humor. People with a good
sense of humor tend to be more
resilient because that shows that flexibility. Like, oh well, what
are you going to do? You know, to be able to
laugh at some of that. And gratitude is
related to this. And then the final factor. They talk about meaning,
purpose, growth. They quote Nietzsche,
and I’m sure we’ve all heard this quote by
Nietzsche: “He who has a why can endure almost any how.” “He who has a why can
endure almost any how.” If I can figure out some
meaning in the worst of times, I can endure it better. So this idea of
meaning is essential. And this is showing up in
all kinds of areas of study now in grief, in
death and dying, the need to make
meaning; the need to sometimes reconstruct meaning
after terrible things have happened seems to be an
essential human task. We’re familiar with Viktor
Frankl, a psychiatrist who was a Holocaust
survivor and helped to create a program
called logotherapy, which means, literally,
healing through meaning. This is also an area that
researchers are interested in, a related area called
post-traumatic growth. And what that means
is when we go through a terrible event and maybe even
a trauma, maybe most of us, maybe all of us would
say, “I would never choose to go through that. And I wish I could undo it. But given that it
happened and given that I had no choice
but to cope with it, I actually can see
ways that I have grown through this for the better.” Now that’s a really
important balance, right? We never would want to
say to someone, “Okay, I know you’ve had
this terrible event, but let’s talk about
the ways you’ve grown.” You know, people would
throw you out the window. That’s not what we’re saying. But given that sometimes
we have to cope, and terrible things do
happen, through our coping can we see ways that we’ve grown? And in many studies, at least
a significant percentage of people will say,
“Yes, yes I have grown.” Some of you, perhaps, know
the book Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff. I adore that book. Wolterstorff is
professor emeritus of philosophical theology
at Yale Divinity School. And he wrote the book– he published the book,
and what it is really, is his journal after his adult
son died in a mountain climbing accident. And he writes about, first of
all, what his grief was like. And then he writes
about the faith journey that he had to engage. And it’s quite powerful,
but one thing he says is along these lines of
post-traumatic growth. He says– I’m paraphrasing,
but something to the effect of, have I grown? Absolutely. Am I a better, more
empathic person now? Yes. Would I give it all
back to get Eric back? Yes, I would. So this is an area
where we always have to be deeply, deeply
sensitive and understanding. But it is also the case
that for many people, resilience is related to
the capacity to find meaning and to see ways that
perhaps they’ve grown. So what I’d like to
do now is offer you the opportunity for a little
reflection on three questions. So what are your thoughts so
far about resilience, about this research, all
that we’re learning? At this time, how
resilient do you feel? I think of resilience
as a spectrum, and I have better
days and worse days. So you might just want to
check in with yourself. How are you feeling in terms
of resilience right now? And do any of those resilience
factors that we just looked at, do they speak to you today? One of the things the
authors write in the book is, none of us is
going to become expert at those ten factors, and
it’s the work of a lifetime. But they suggest maybe
there’s one or two that you would like to commit
some time and attention to. So today, did any of
them speak to you? So here’s what I’d like
to suggest as a process. You know, if you want to go
out and stretch your legs, by all means, do that. But one process
could be a couple of minutes of private reflection
in silence by ourselves. And then, if you’d like, you
could turn to one or two people at your table and
share a thought, if you’d like to share for
another couple of minutes. And then we’ll come back
together for a few minutes to see if anybody wants to
share a thought with the larger group. So we’re going to take a
break in a few minutes. And you can certainly
continue the conversations with one another, but I do want
to open up our conversation for about three or
four minutes and see if anyone has a
question or comment they’d like to share
with the large group. And we have some of our
students with microphones so that you can be heard. So who has a thought
they’d like to share? Here comes the microphone.>>PARTICIPANT: Hi, I
appreciate your presentation. I think just reflection,
itself, brings resilience. As I reflect on my life and
all that I’ve gone through, I have a great
sense of resilience that I’ve gone through it. Thanks.>>DR. KELLEY:
Thank you for that.>>PARTICIPANT: Just
a quick question. You may get to this
in the second part, but when you were
talking about brain fitness and the resiliency in
terms of not just cognitive but as well as emotional, I was
wondering if there’s anything out there in terms of
religious resiliency or spiritual
flexibility, you know? Because as we grow we develop
different relationships with God, and things like that.>>DR. KELLEY: I think
that’s a fascinating point, but can you share a
little more about what you’re thinking about that? It sounds like you’ve done
some interesting thinking about that, so can you
say a little bit more?>>PARTICIPANT: I
guess just in my life, I feel like different religious
symbols or my experience of God or understanding of God
has grown and changed throughout different
experiences in life. I think that’s made me more open
and accepting to other faiths.>>DR. KELLEY: Right.>>PARTICIPANT: I don’t know. I just feel like there’s
flexibility there, you know?>>DR. KELLEY: Yes.>>PARTICIPANT: And I feel
like it’s very similar to– you know, because I have
an understanding of what it is to be cognitively
flexible or emotionally flexible in situations.>>DR. KELLEY: Yes, so what
about spiritually flexible?>>PARTICIPANT: Right.>>DR. KELLEY: Yeah, I
think that’s a great point. I don’t think these authors
take that up, in particular, but I think that would be
a really interesting thing to look into and to explore. Part of what we’re
doing after the break is looking at five of
these categories in terms of faith perspectives. I didn’t pick flexibility. That would be a great one,
also, to look at in more depth. So thank you for that. Ah, there’s a– it looks like
we’re going to the back first.>>PARTICIPANT: Hi. Here’s a question
from your class. Where is sleep in all of this? Sleep and rest. [laughter]>>DR. KELLEY: Amy, do you
want to say more about that? Yeah, I think it’s a
great question because– I think the authors would put
that with physical fitness. That if we don’t
get enough sleep, and don’t we know now
from more and more studies the terrible cost of sleep
deprivation, beginning young. So, yeah, I think
that’s a critical point. And I think that that probably–
in terms of these ten. And this is also not
an exhaustive list. It’s themes that they culled
from all these studies. But I think, probably,
in terms of these ten would want to put that
with physical fitness. Okay. Thanks, Amy.>>PARTICIPANT: I
was just observing how each of these factors are
so connected with one another.>>DR. KELLEY: Yes.>>PARTICIPANT: That,
say, for example your way of meaning making has
to do with meditation so you join a meditation group. Now that’s community,
which is social, which leads to role models,
and on and on and on. And how, when you were doing
this– or were you doing this, or were you taking this– how did you divide them up? You could have subdivided
them differently, but–>>DR. KELLEY: Yeah.>>PARTICIPANT: –this
was so instructive.>>DR. KELLEY: Yeah,
well that’s their work. They devote a chapter to
each of those ten factors. But they make the point
that you’re making, that it’s hard to differentiate
these fully because this is human life, right? So there’s overlap and
connection among all of these. Yeah, thank you for that point. Maybe one more and then
we can take a break? Yes? Oh, I have a mic.>>PARTICIPANT: I think
my thought is probably regarding meaning. I just find it hard to
differentiate conflict, if it is conflicting ideas. And for example, if it’s
hard to maintain reality and truthfulness that
we see or that we know is an example of right or wrong. And then from the outside
forces that are around us, that what we think may be all
we know as right because we’ve been taught the difference
between right and wrong, and we see outside
forces, which is against what we see as right.>>DR. KELLEY: And so that
feels related to the meaning?>>PARTICIPANT: Perhaps.>>DR. KELLEY: Yeah, yeah. That might relate–
thank you for the point. That might relate to what
they are also describing as that moral courage. You know, when we
have a clear sense of a value or a
commitment, are we able to stay with it even when
there are forces that would encourage us not to, perhaps? Yeah. We’re going to turn
to Part 2, now, which is how we might
begin to think about some of the connections between
faith and resilience. And just a reminder
that I’m speaking out of a Christian framework,
although that’s not the only faith that people
are really interested in, in terms of resilience. And the question–
the framing question that I’d like to propose
is how might our faith help us to cultivate
and sustain resilience? And I want to say a few
things about this question before we kind of dig
into it more fully. I want to say,
first, that I am not wanting to suggest
that our faith exists for the purpose of helping us
meet psychological descriptions of resilience. I do not want to suggest that
we should reduce our faith to those sorts of functions. I also do not want
to force-fit faith into these social
science categories. I want to say Christianity
stands on its own. And I believe that it’s a
source, and for many of us, perhaps, our primary source
of resilience already. But what I am hoping
that this time is, is an invitation to explore,
recall, revisit, name, celebrate how our faith may be
a primary source of resilience for us. So to bring intentionality
to that connection, I hope might help some of us to
see, maybe for the first time, or to see in new ways,
some aspects of our faith that can bring life and hope in
times of struggle and stress. And in terms of what aspects of
faith are we going to look at? I’m going to be making some
comments about faith practices, symbols, Scripture, prayer,
worship, sacramental life, outreach to others,
the community of faith, hymns, our ancestors in faith,
and contemporary witnesses of faith. And, of course, that’s only
part of what we could do. And I also want to say, just
to be clear, I’m using symbol– that’s a complex
word, of course. I’m using it in the sense
articulated by theologian Roger Haight who says quote,
“Symbols are vehicles that expand the horizon of human
perception toward an encounter with reality not available to
ordinary conceptual knowledge.” So when we’ve reached
the limits of what we can wrap our minds around,
ordinary conceptual knowledge, sometimes that’s where a symbol
is really helpful to expand our horizon of perception. And the last thing I want
to say is what I’m offering are ways that I think about
this, and they’re suggestive, and they’re limited
because they’re ways that I think about this. Every one of us would do
something different with this, I know. And we’ll have some chance
to talk about that together. And as we said with
the resilience factors, there’s going to be
clear overlap among all of these elements of faith. They’re all of a piece, really. Okay. So with all of that
having been said, I’d like to suggest five
of those resilience factors that we could reflect on
in ways that I hope are interesting in terms of faith. So the five I’m choosing
are meaning, optimism, facing fears, social
support, and role models. So first, meaning. Meaning was their number ten. And I don’t think
the authors put them in order of importance. But I’m putting it
first because, for me, this is where we need to start. As we said earlier,
meaning is that why. You know, when I’m
struggling with the how or the what of something, the
meaning question is the why. Why is this happening? Why is this happening to me? Why am I struggling? So what is meaning? I also want to say
that colloquially we could say it’s what gets me
out of bed in the morning. You know those days or
those stretches of life where it would be awfully
easy not to get out of bed? What is it that motivates
me, that drives me, that inspires me to
say, no, I will do this. I’ll cope again today. We can think of that
as related to meaning. It’s the sense I
make of my life. It’s the coherence, the
integrity I seek in my life, how it all hangs together
around my values, probably, my commitments. But I want to say, very clearly,
as I’m sure we know well, not all meanings
are created equal. There are more helpful meanings
and less helpful meanings. In the grief world
that I inhabit a lot, there’s often this sense
that I sort of tease out of some writing that as long
as people can find meaning, they’ll be okay. And I have always
felt like hmmm, in terms of faith,
theologically speaking, I don’t think we
could agree with that. Or at least I can’t
agree with that. So for instance, if somebody
is struggling and having a very painful time and
says, “Well, everything happens for a reason. And so this is
happening, I think, because God has abandoned me. Or this is happening because
God does not love me, or God cannot forgive me for
that thing that happened 20 years ago.” Those are real struggles that
real people have, sometimes. We saw in the earlier slide
about resilience and meaning that some of that
negative religious coping actually undermines resilience. And so I’m echoing that. I think from a
faith perspective, we want to be concerned about
the meaning that all of us make about struggle and
stress and suffering. And I want to underscore that
I think a really critical place to start when we
think about resilience and meaning and faith, is with
the essential faith meaning that God is love. And 1 John 4:16, “God is love. Those who abide in love abide
in God, and God abides in them.” I want to suggest from
the faith perspective that if this meaning becomes
the bedrock meaning of our faith life, I think we are on
the road to resilience. And we’ll see how it connects
with some of the other pieces we’re going to look at. One of the people who helps me
return to that in helpful ways is Julian of Norwich. Here’s Julian. And I’m sure people
know her story, but I’ll just remind us a little
bit that we don’t actually know much about her historical life. We don’t even know
her actual name. But she was– talk about
stress and struggle. She was twice visited
by the Black Death. She was living at a time
of great political unrest, religious struggles, poverty. When she was 30, over
the course of a day she experienced a series
of visions, 16 visions, that she called Showings. And she wrote them down. She felt God had instructed–
they were visions from God. And she felt God had instructed
her to write them down. And her book was the first book
written in English by a woman. And what I want to say
is that her writing, she continued to
ponder the meaning of these visions, these
showings, for over 20 years. And she did that through– she described prayer and
conversations with God. So she felt like she was
in partnership with God in teasing out the
meaning of these visions. And so over 20 years,
as you can imagine, her understanding of the
meaning of the visions kept evolving and deepening. What she came to was that
the meaning of those visions was God’s love. She says, “Know it well,
love was his meaning.” And she says, we are “endlessly
loved with an endless love.” Julian is also the one– we know that
beautiful expression that has brought comfort
to so many people, “All shall be well. All manner of things
shall be well.” That was Julian after
reflecting on sin. She wasn’t sugarcoating human
experience or human nature. She seemed to have, actually,
a substantial understanding of human sin. And out of that understanding,
affirmed that God is love. And therefore, “all
shall be well.” So Julian is very
helpful to me when I want to come back to that
essential faith meaning. Julian also has
these words for us, and I think about this
in terms of resilience. “For our soul sits
in God in true rest, and our soul stands in
God in sure strength, and our soul is naturally
rooted in God in endless love.” That feels like a metaphor
for resilience: to sit in God, to stand in God, to be rooted
in God in endless love. And then to extend this
understanding of God’s love and our life in Christ, these
beautiful words from John 3:16, “for God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son, so that everyone
who believes in him may not perish but may
have eternal life.” And each time we
partake of the Eucharist we remember, and we experience
again that ultimate gift of God’s love. Jesus Christ broken for
us, Jesus Christ in us, Jesus Christ with us,
Jesus Christ for us. It begins with God’s love. So to me, I want to suggest
this as our essential meaning for everything else that we
might want to think today about resilience and faith. So then next, let’s
give some thought to this category of optimism. And one of the things I
appreciate about the resilience work that we looked at is,
remember the authors talk about this optimism
being realistic, that it’s based in reality. It’s not just putting on
my rose-colored glasses and saying, “Oh, everything will
be fine; nothing wrong here.” I appreciate that,
because sometimes optimism can feel a little naive. But even so, I want
to suggest that when we think about this
in light of faith, I want to suggest that we talk
about Christian hope instead of simply optimism. Because optimism is really
a psychological term. It’s thought of as a
personality construct, often. And hope is more than
that, as we know. Hope is my orientation
to my whole life. It’s not just how I go into
a difficult work meeting. It’s what gets me out
of bed in the morning. It’s how I see it all cohering. It’s my world view that
grounds everything. It’s what I return
to again and again. And without hope it’s hard for
me to imagine being resilient. Clearly, optimism is
very, very hopeful. But from a faith
perspective, it’s hard for me to imagine really being
resilient through life without Christian hope. This interesting
challenge from 1 Peter, “Always be ready to
make your defense to anyone who demands from you an
accounting for the hope that is in you.” Why do I hope? And in whom and
in what do I hope? Can I make an
accounting of that? So let’s think about that. And so I want to connect
this thinking about hope to another area that’s very
significant in grief studies, nowadays, which is
the idea of story, and this idea that all
of us are living a story. And I may not think about
it consciously every day, but it’s kind of there
in the background. And sometimes it rushes
to the foreground. You know, for instance, why
am I up here this morning? Why am I teaching at the
School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College? Well, it’s connected
to my life story. It’s part of the
plot of my life. There are a series
of events that have brought me to this point. It’s true for all of us. How did any of us
get where we are? Our life story has unfolded
in a particular way. So we’re all living
a story, in a sense. And it seems that thinking
about our life in that way is something people
do cross-culturally. Kids learn to do it very young. When we ask kids, what do you
want to be when you grow up? We’re asking them to
imagine the future story. We could also say, well, we’re
just asking for information. No. Well, yes, but
we’re also inviting them to be writing a future
script, a future plot line. What can happen when the worst
occurs, when a tragedy strikes, when I’m under awful stress,
when there’s a, when there’s a terrible loss, it
can feel like my life story has been disrupted. A researcher and a psychologist
who I draw on a lot by the name of Robert Neimeyer,
he uses the term narrative disruption, narrative
meaning story. I’m living my story. Everything’s fine. And then something
can happen, and it can feel like my story comes to
a screeching halt. Those of you who do a lot of work in
health care settings, you probably see
this constantly. Everything was fine and
then, boom, this occurred. And now it may be my life
story makes no sense. It can feel almost like
pages have been ripped out of the story of my life. And now I don’t know what the
next chapter is going to be. And not only can that be
terribly, terribly painful and disorienting and
stressful and frightening, but it can also mean
that, at least for a time, I may not have any hope. If my hope was linked to the
way I thought my story was going to unfold and now that
story cannot unfold that way or at least not fully, it may
be that my very sense of hope is shaken. So in the grief world,
this is what we are thinking more and more about– the journey of grief
for many people is not about stages of grief. It’s not about
completing certain tasks, although some people find that
to be an accurate description of what they experience. But more and more
we think about what is happening to the
person’s sense of story and do they have hope? Do they have hopeful
meaning for the future? So this is where I think the
Christian faith story is just so vital, that
when I can continue to place my story within
the Christian story, I know my story’s not over. My particular story may
feel deeply affected. My particular life
story may feel like a story with no future. But from a faith
perspective, my story is not over because I’m always
part of that larger story. My story is embedded
in God’s story. And that’s a hopeful story,
that because God is constantly active in our world there will
be another page to my story. There will be another chapter. There will be a future story. One of the things
we can struggle with when the worst has
happened or, and it may not be the worst, but when
something difficult has happened I can feel like
everything is at an end. And so the idea that, well,
I’ll start a new chapter, or I’ll start a new page,
that can feel just impossible. But I find these words
by Juergen Moltmann helpful from a
faith perspective. “In every end a new
beginning lies hidden.” In every end there’s
a new beginning because God is constantly
at work in all our lives. It may be a great challenge
to see that new beginning, and we may not see it
for quite some time. But it is there. And then I was recently
speaking with someone about some of these categories
of faith and resilience. And he said, you know what
I find really helpful? Just the phrase, “on the
third day,” just that phrase. And he said, for him, that
language, that phrase alone, is a metaphor, is a reminder
that the story continues. That the story of Christ
did not end on the Cross. That there was a
third day, there was new life in which we all
are invited to participate. So we have meaning,
so far, and I’m suggesting that we think about
God’s love, God’s merciful, compassionate love as just a
bedrock faith meaning for us, which, therefore, gives us hope. Because in God’s love, God is
constantly active in our lives creating the new thing. And so there is always hope. And our story is always part
of God’s story of love, which then brings us to facing fear. And I have to say, I
don’t enjoy facing fear. Even this morning as I was
getting ready to come over here and feeling a little
anxiety about it, I thought, okay, got to face my fear. It’s not easy to do. We all walk around
with vulnerability. We all walk around with anxiety. We don’t know how we’re
going to be received. We don’t know how people
will respond to us. We don’t know how we’ll meet
all our needs, et cetera. So we’re always vulnerable. And therefore, we always face
the challenge of facing fear. But I want to
start with Psalm 23 because I feel like if
anything were to reassure us that we do not face our
fears alone, perhaps it’s these words. “Even though I walk through the
darkest valley, I fear no evil. For you are with me. Your rod and your
staff, they comfort me.” So we’re never alone,
even at the darkest times. In this season of
Lent, I find it meaningful to reflect on
some of the experience that Jesus seemed to have
had, and even, perhaps, in the area of facing fear. So this powerful passage from
Matthew, “Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved,
even to death. Remain here and
stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther,
he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My father,
if it is possible, let this cup pass from
me.; yet not what I want, but what you want.'” Was that fear? It seems so. That Jesus in his full humanity
was terrified, perhaps, of what awaited him. And yet he faced the fear,
surrendering to God’s will, trusting God’s will. And so I want to say the Cross
and, in a particular way, sometimes the crucifix may
be a deeply meaningful symbol when we need to face our fears
and try to hope and trust in God’s merciful love. Christ knows the fears
that we are facing. Christ is with us as
we face our fears. And Christ beckons
from beyond the Cross of fears and suffering as our
hopeful story of life in him continues. And then, of course,
the importance of light as a symbol,
as a metaphor, as an image of facing fears. So these beautiful
words from John 8, “Again Jesus spoke
to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will
never walk in darkness, but will have the light
of life.'” So our faith is inviting us to hope, to trust
that whatever the darkness we face, it can never
fully envelop us. Even in the darkest
of times, we try to trust that Christ’s
light is there. And I think again
of our ancestors in faith who had their fears,
who had their struggles, and have wisdom for us. So this beautiful prayer of
Teresa of Avila, “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever possesses,
God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.” Whatever is swirling around us,
and we live in swirling times, God is constant
in love and mercy. And then we turn to
this fourth resilience factor, social support. And I want to talk about
the community of faith in connection with
social support because it’s just such an
important connection for us to make. Of course, we know we
can draw on our faith to grow in resilience
all alone at home, all alone in the
beautiful Creation. Yet there’s something
deeply important and necessary about the ways
we support one another in faith and as a community of faith. So I want to suggest that
the community of faith has at least three vital
roles and responsibilities in helping to create this
support that builds up the Body of Christ. There’s many more
we could talk about, but I want to suggest three. The first is going
back to story. That idea that when our
story, our personal story gets disrupted, we can
struggle for meaning. We can struggle to feel hope. And so it’s very important
that the community of faith exists to help us
recall the faith story. You know, we don’t just go for
the coffee hour, as good and as important as that might be. We go to recall the story. We come to hear the story. We come to remember
that our story is part of that larger story. That’s what it’s all about. And that larger story is
a story of love and hope. And we come to
participate in the story. You know that expression,
if a tree falls in the woods and no
one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, if someone shows
up to hear the story and no one’s there, or if we
don’t keep the story going, what happens to that story? I mean, God will
find God’s ways, but we have a critical role
to participate in the story. So this is our first vital role
in terms of social support. The second vital
role I want to say, has to do with what
loss, trauma, difficulty, violence, abuse can sometimes
do to people’s sense of self. People who have been
victimized in any way, people who have struggled
just so much in life can sometimes wonder if they
are really loved by God. Is there something
wrong with them? Why? Why do some people suffer
so much more than others? So I want to underscore that
a vital role for the community of faith in terms
of social support is reminding us,
witnessing to the fact that we are each created in
God’s image and likeness. Each of us has indelible
God-given dignity. And nothing can take that away. No experience, no
suffering, no trauma can reduce the God-given
dignity in each of us. And reminding us of that,
it may not be in words, but just in how we form
community, how we are with one another speaks volumes. And the third way that
the community of faith, the third vital role we have
in offering social support, is to hear the cry
of all who suffer, to move beyond our own confines
of family or neighborhood or church community,
to engage in those works of compassion
and mercy that care for the least of these. Matthew 25, “Truly
I tell you, just as you did it to one
of the least of these who are members of my
family, you did it to me.” So recalling how wide
the family net really is and supporting as
widely as we can. And then one other piece
about social support that I just want
to throw in here because I find it so meaningful,
is the Communion of Saints. And you’re probably
familiar with this book by Elizabeth
Johnson, theologian, called Friends of
God and Prophets, where she’s taking up
the Communion of Saints, which is not something that
maybe we talk about as much as other concepts, other
aspects of the faith. But what she’s inviting
us to do in this book is to retrieve an early
understanding of the Communion of Saints as quote,
“companionship of friends,” companionship of friends. And so she’s talking
about these relationships of mutuality among all the
faithful, living and dead, who– we all come together in
union with one another, in communion that crosses
all cultures, all times, and it points always
to God in Christ. She says quote, “the
living and the dead form a circle of friendship
centered on the graciousness of the Living God.” So it’s a symbol, she
says, “that signifies that those who seek the
face of the Living God today belong to a great
historical company, an intergenerational band
of the friends of God and prophets that
includes the living and the dead all connected
in the gracious compassionate love of Holy Wisdom who, in the
midst of historical struggle, sin, and defeat, continuously
renews her gift of saving, healing grace.” So talk about social support. I just think this is
incredible that we’re invited to draw strength
from the countless good women and men who have run
their own races, who’ve known their own suffering,
but continue to bear witness to enduring in faith. And finally, the
last factor that I thought we could talk
about today is role models. Who are those people who
offer us some sort of model, witness of resilience,
and in this portion, resilience in faith. So what I’ve started to call
for myself, faithful resilience. And some of you,
perhaps, know this book. I’ve recently kind
of rediscovered it. It’s called Soul Sisters:
Women in Scripture Speak to Women Today. And it’s a book– it came out in ’04. Someone recently asked me about
it, and I said, “Oh, yeah.” And then I thought, oh,
that’s a really terrific way to think about this idea
of role models in faith. What this book does is it
looks at significant women figures in Scripture and
Edwina Gateley has written these beautiful reflections
on each of the women and how they speak
to people today. And the artwork is by Louis
Glanzman, and it’s stunning. I want to say there’s a
companion book written by someone else
called Soul Brothers. I don’t have that, but
I imagine it’s beautiful because Louis Glanzman did the
artwork for that one as well. So this is Martha. Look at Martha. If that’s not a
portrait of resilience, I’m not sure I know what is. I want to read you just a little
bit of what Edwina Gateley reflects in terms of Martha. The full reflection is
like five or six pages. I’m going to read
you a few lines. But let’s listen
for the resilience. She says, “Ah, Martha, Martha. The centuries have defined
you and dismissed you for you did not sit silent and
submissive at the feet of Jesus as Mary did. No, you went about your
business of sifting and kneading and baking bread to break
open and feed the hungry. You shook the cloth, lined up
the dishes, placed the mats, and prepared the
table for all to eat. Ah, Martha, I think you did
everything you had to do, everything you had always done
when no one else was there, to bake, to wash,
to serve, to feed. You kept on doing it, Martha,
the work that was essential and despised. You knew you had to. There simply was no alternative. Mature and responsible, you knew
what had to be done, Martha. You did it. But you also let it be known. No pushover, you. You voiced your
protest in the midst of a culture that
preferred and acknowledged submissive, silent women. Standing defiant and
strong, you stood, also, for all of us who
throughout the ages have given our lives
in love and service, yet often longed
in quiet moments as the last crumbs
were wiped away and the last dish stored,
for a little recognition, a touch of respect for the
caregiver’s awesome task.” So that’s Martha. And then, if we’re going to
think of resilient role models, we must think about Jesus
who, in his full humanity, knew and accepted grief
and challenge and fear and suffering. Who dealt with constant
demands upon his healing power. Who modeled self-giving
love, even to the cross. And who has promised his
constant presence with us through the Spirit. No matter how we fail or
how unresilient we may feel, we can return again
to any situation knowing he is there
with us to support, to forgive, to
sustain, and to love. And then I want to
say that our role models in faithful
resilience are clearly not just from the past. Who are our contemporary
witnesses to such resilience? And so I was thinking
in a particular way of the African-American
Church and how countless African-American
Christians for so long have witnessed to hope and trust
in God in order to keep going and to embrace life through so
much struggle and injustice. So I thought I would play
this song as a symbol, as a sung symbol of that
faithful resilience. This is the song Lift
Every Voice and Sing, which, perhaps, you know. I want to tell you just
a word about the song, and this is from the
website of the NAACP. Lift Every Voice
and Sing is often called the “Black
National Anthem.” It was written as a poem by
NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, and it was set to music
by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1899. And it was first
performed in public in the Johnsons’ hometown
of Jacksonville, Florida, as part of a celebration of
Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th, 1900, by a choir
of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School
where James Weldon Johnson was principal. This version of the song I
happened to find on YouTube, and I find it just very moving. It’s sung by an acappella
group called The Committed, and they are at
Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama,
which is a historically Black university. But here’s the
reflection questions. So having now given some
thought in a very limited way to resilience in light of
faith and this spiritual life, what are you thinking about? Do we feel called to grow in
deeper spiritual resilience in any of the ways we’ve thought
about today or some other way? And at this moment, to
what might our loving God be inviting you? So do any of those
questions speak to you? If not, feel free to spend
the next few minutes however you’d like, but in some quiet. Okay, everyone, could
we come back together? And this is an opportunity
for people to share thoughts with one another. Or maybe you have ideas
for drawing on faith. Did you hear the Boston
accent just then? “Drawring,” it just
sneaks up on me sometimes. But you might have
ideas on how to draw on faith to foster
resilience that you’d like to share with one another. So we have microphones
again, and the floor is open. What would you like to
share with one another? Here comes a microphone.>>PARTICIPANT: I’ve been
working on for some time now since I retired, the
problem with Catholic schools. As you know, we’re losing
a great number of schools. The expenses are getting
greater and greater here at Boston College over $60,000
a year for a full-time student. The poor don’t seem to
have as much of a chance. So what are we going
to do about it? Are we going to let the
situation get worse, or is there any
solution at all to it? That’s what I’ve been
kind of working on.>>DR. KELLEY: Mm hmm. Thank you for that. You know, I just want
to say very briefly, you’re reminding
me that one thing I meant to say at the
beginning and forgot was there are justice dimensions
to resilience, as well. You know, who has access
to some of the resources, to some of the support
that cultivate resilience? And the cost of education,
Catholic education may be related to that. So thank you for that.>>PARTICIPANT: I was thinking
about your reflection about telling our stories. And in my own
experience in ministry, I find that the telling of
story brings healing to people. And the more we tell our story
the more healing takes place. And then I was thinking about
the importance of telling our story in community. And then I was thinking
about the importance of women telling women’s
story in community. And then I was thinking about
the importance of the Church listening to women
telling our story, and how that will bring
resilience to women. And then I was
thinking about women as we are being women of
faith, of hope, and of courage, and praying that we would be
able to sustain resilience in these difficult
times in our Church.>>DR. KELLEY: Thank you very
much for sharing all of that.>>PARTICIPANT: I’d
like to tell a story. One time– I am a chaplain, and
one time, very late at night, someone very young came in
a very tragic situation. And I sat with the parents. And the parents
were not Christian. They were not believers. And one of the things
that we are challenged to is how can we help find
meaning in a situation when there is no faith. So one of the parents
was saying regularly, we wish we believed
in God, but we don’t. I wish I believed in
God, but we don’t. And part of me was
thinking, not now. Not now. Not now. But about an hour later in
our conversation and mostly listening, really, as they
share the story that led to that horribly tragic moment,
I said, “You know, just after the last ‘we wish
we believed in God but we don’t,’ I said, you know, the
broadest theological concept is that of love. And I see a lot of
love in this room.” And that gave– there
was a whole, like, sigh in that moment. I could feel it. It was tangible. And that gave those parents
the courage to go on. And the rest of the story is
amazing, and it’s miraculous, and it’s incredible
in its power. I can’t give details, obviously. But what it helped
me to do later on was when I hear that, “I don’t
have faith to hold on to,” or “God has
abandoned me,” I say, “Wherever there is love in your
life, there is God with you.” Especially for those who
believe but believe that they’ve been abandoned: Where
is love in your life right now holding to you? And that has been very
helpful for people.>>DR. KELLEY: Oh,
that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. In the back there. Valerie.>>PARTICIPANT: One of the
things I’ve been thinking about, I think just a question for
my own further reflection, and maybe for each of us in
our own ministerial contexts, is how can faith communities be
intentional about cultivating these elements of
resilience, and be proactive about cultivating
social support and making sure these things are in place
so that when things happen, people are ready, and already
have that resilience formed?>>DR. KELLEY: Mm hmm, I think
those are great questions. Sometimes when I’m
immersed in sort of the science of resilience,
I just kind of want to get up on a rooftop and
say, does everybody get this? Does everybody understand
how essential faith is and faith community? And again, we don’t reduce
faith to its function in terms of resilience-building
understood psychologically, but I feel like it’s all there. You know, so much of
it is just right there. And can we make
those connections? Can we help one another
see the connections? Thank you, Valerie. We have time for, maybe,
one or two more comments, and then we’ll play
our closing song?>>PARTICIPANT: So I just
wanted to– thank you so much for today. The one aspect
that I experience, or in my reflections I
came upon is community. And we’re very blessed at
St. Paul’s in Cambridge for the community that just
has grown after our 11 o’clock Mass. And it’s one gentleman’s
ministry just to be present, to offer coffee and anything
else that anyone brings. And you know we really celebrate
every Sunday with each other. We’re so happy. We’re there for hours. But this– oh, I’m sorry. This one Sunday, last Sunday,
was a very amazing Sunday. We had a crowd. And we don’t even know always
who comes, but we usually do. This one woman, she was very
engaged in our conversation. And I said, “I
wonder who she is.” So then after a while
she started sharing. And she said, I was
very alone this morning. And well, her long
story short is that her son has been treated
at Children’s Hospital. She’s from Mexico. And he had a little– not little, but a side effect
to some of the treatments he had on the way to a Jimmy
Fund event in Fort Myers, from Mexico to Fort Myers. Short version, he
ended up at a hospital and then was being
treated for a situation and then was going to be flown
in that morning or that day by air flight to
Children’s Hospital. And she was sitting
with us as happy as anyone could possibly
be, but carrying like this unaware– you know,
what’s going to happen to him. And it was just amazing
that she, you know, she said she felt so alone. “I didn’t know where to go
today, and I came to be at St. Paul’s.” And she said, “You
know, I’m here.” She shared her whole
story, obviously. And we’ve been praying
for, obviously, all week. And he’s quote,
unquote “doing better.” But it just was
really an amazing kind of experience for us. Anyhow, but you get the idea.>>DR. KELLEY: Yes.>>PARTICIPANT: It
really– God is good. And he puts people in
our lives to touch us, and to touch each other,
and to carry each other.>>DR. KELLEY: Thank
you for sharing that. That’s a lovely story. Well, why don’t we
conclude with prayer. This is the song Healer of
Our Every Ill, by Marty Hogan. And the lyrics– you can
either just listen and enjoy. If you want to sing
along, the lyrics are on the back page
of your handout. So I want to thank you all
very much for being here. It’s been a pleasure
spending this time with you. Thank you for all of
your wisdom and sharing. I wish everyone peace
and faithful resilience. Thanks, everybody.>>PARTICIPANT: And thanks– [applause]

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