Monday Morning Resilience


In the United States there has been another mass shooting. As bad as it is to wake up and hear this news, it is nothing compared to those who lived through it and are even now trying to make sense of the horror.

I began the day by reading about refugees and resilience. The specific article I was reading is a fascinating study on refugee care. The authors want to move refugee work away from being completely trauma-focused and instead focus on the strength of the refugee, changing the focus of care from trauma to resilience.

I was thinking about this as I drove on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. Monday mornings you will usually find me waiting for the subway at 6:30 in the morning. Today I will be in Worcester guest lecturing for a class at UMass School of Nursing, so I had the rare privilege of driving in brilliant fall sunlight by the Charles River.

As I was driving, lost in thought and thinking about resilience, I saw a young man running along the sidewalk.

Seeing a man running  on the banks of the Charles River is a usual sight in our area. No matter what the temperature, and it is definitely getting colder, you will see runners of all sizes, shapes and abilities.

But this man was different. Because he had no legs.  He was running, faster than I ever could, on two metal prostheses. In an instant, my day changed. I sat at a traffic light as the man ran past. I caught up with him, but just barely, in my car going 35 miles an hour. His strength was incredible. I wanted to stop and ask him his story. How had he lost his legs? When did he get the prostheses? What was the recovery like? How? Why? When?

I slowed down, just so I could see him in my side mirror a bit longer. It was this incredible picture of strength in the midst of adversity. This guy wasn’t sitting at home whining, angry at life and at his circumstances. He was out on a beautiful fall day, using his artificial legs on his God-given body.

I thought of the article I had read earlier, and of the man who I had observed running. It all connected. Resilience, strength, moving past your circumstances and forging ahead with what you have.

Alain de Botten says that “A good half of the art of living is resilience.” I think about this and realize that I tend to focus on the trauma, on the hard, on the seemingly impossible. But those whom I’ve recently met, they focus on the strength. They know their stories, they are not in any sort of denial, but they also recognize that they survived their stories The trauma was significant, their resilience more so.

One of my closet friends is a gifted counselor. She specializes in kids and teens – those who are the most wounded in the population of children. She has seen and heard about more horror, evil, and trauma than I can imagine.  Yet she remains calm and gifted in her work. I asked her one time how she does it, how she continues to counsel those who are so hurt. She responded “In the worst of situations, I see and am amazed at the strength and resilience of the human spirit. And that reminds me over and over that we are made in the image of God.”

It reminded me again of how much I have to learn about resilience and hope on a Monday morning.

Strength Will Rise

On Wednesday, my fifth child graduated from high school. The ceremony was living, breathing evidence of perseverance through adversity. Everyone on stage clothed in a black graduation gown with a cap and tassel has lived more of life than they should have in their short years. And we celebrated. Big time.

With this graduation I ended over 22 years and approximately 4025 days of school; of school functions and lunches; of good teachers and bad teachers and mediocre teachers; of interacting with parents I love and showing grace to parents I don’t love; of fundraisers and so much more. And it was Bittersweet. And it was time.

And my strength was gone. Gone like the chewed bones of the ribs that were eaten at the graduation party. Gone like the cups, plates and silverware tossed in the trash for tomorrow’s recycling. Gone like the people who had come, celebrated and left. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and cry until there were no more tears to cry and my tears had watered every flower, bush and plant in the Boston Public Gardens. Instead I called a friend and sobbed, talking through all the emotions I was feeling.

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord

Sometimes all of life builds up like a house of cards and one little movement sends it crashing down, lying in a jumble of aces, spades, hearts and diamonds.

And that is what happened. My house of cards fell. I have gone on my own strength for so long that it took the tiniest of motions to cause the collapse and demise of my carefully constructed but pitifully weak house.

Our God, you reign forever. Our hope, our strong deliverer

After a heavy dose of tears and wise words of a friend swallowed with a big bottle of self-reflection I found myself in a place of humility and exhaustion. It was so good. It was so hard. 

You are the everlasting God, the everlasting God. You do not faint, you won’t grow weary 

I have tried to fix and rescue, protect and provide. Only. There are times when it is impossible. When the broken cannot be fixed and the drowning cannot be saved; when those who need protecting need more than our feeble efforts and provisions have run out. And that is where I was. I was weak. I was needy. My strength was gone.

You’re the defender of the weak, you comfort those in need

In the post-tears exhaustion that followed, I surrendered  with smudged mascara, tear coated contact lenses and weary willingness to lean on the One who gives life and the bread of life, the one who lifts us up on wings like eagles.

Strength will rise.