Perseverance. Resilience. Sticking with it.
While I'd like to dress it up and say that the softer virtues such as being well-spoken, thoughtful, etc. are the keys to navigating tough times and huge changes in life (even the life of following Jesus) there are times when the three words above are critical for our journeys.
When the time-worn paths of prayer seem fruitless.
Times when Scripture no longer jumps off the page at us, but instead has to be coaxed out like a hound shaded under an idle car on a hot August day.
Times when fasting and silence feel like torture instead of training.
It is in these times where we are seeking, with desperation and ultimately hope, for something that we can't quite see. We need perseverance for that journey.
A map, a strong friend, and a simple directive to find what it is that our souls long for most. The wisdom and liveliness of the Spirit of God, renewing us again and again.
In a recent article in Weavings, Steve Doughty talks about "Gifts of the Holy Resilient" and offers six questions for those times when we are struggling to hang on. These are for those of us who are transitioning - when our relationship with God has changed due to growth (three cheers!), trial, or simply the passage of time. They are also for those of us who are growing older physically as well as spiritually - navigating the changing world in parallel lines with our changing souls.
1. What must I/we let go of? We have a desperate need to hear from God on the things that need to be released, reliquished, or simply dumped at this point in our lives.
2. In the midst of the change that is taking place, what abides? Even as things are changing rapidly, there are things that continue to be true. Promises of Scripture, the way we see and know God, or memories of God's faithfulness are all things we look for in times of transition.
3. What of Christ am I/are we invited to put on? It never fails that in the times of resilience and perseverance we're presented with new ways to become like Jesus. Even as the world around us changes and challenges us, what happens within us is still far more important.
4. What fresh glimpses of God's grace do I/we see amid all that is going on? We begin looking for ways in which God is appearing, fresh and new, in the midst of chaos and challenge. God is always at work, if we will slow our steps long enough to witness it.
5. What models of faithful change can I/we look to? Who in Scripture or in our history has made great change or experienced great trials and perseverance? Perhaps it's a personal friend or it could be found through reading biographies of followers of Jesus such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Either way, we need well-chosen and adequate guides to make this journey.
6. How might what I am/we are learning help others? It's always important to remember that we aren't simply being transformed for our own sakes but for the sake of the whole world. We're made resilient so that the world may see resilient witnesses to Jesus. We persevere so that we can show others the joy of seeing things through to the other side and being healed and strengthened by the good and beautiful God at every single step along the way.
My prayer is that these questions may help you if you are going through a transition in faith or life right now. I welcome any dialogue you have, and am open to helping you find a spiritual director that may fit this time in your life. Simply comment below and I'd love to point you in the right direction.