Dear Members and Friends,
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
-Lao Tzu, 6th century BCE
We are only in the third week of Easter. While we know Easter to be a season of new life and resurrection, we don’t often stop to think about the truth that for there to be resurrection and new life there must be change! One thing that is very clear from the stories of the early disciples of Jesus encountering the Risen Jesus was that they were dealing with dramatic change. No one before had every experienced someone rising from the dead (other than possibly Lazarus, but something was clearly different about Jesus’ resurrection and Lazarus’ resuscitation). The disciples were confronted with a brand new reality and it took them a while to incorporate that new reality into their world and their lives.
Whenever we are confronted by change in our lives we can become disoriented, knocked-off balance, unsure of our footing. Change is often upsetting. The world can suddenly feel chaotic and we can easily be swept up in a tide of overwhelming emotion. Overwhelmed by the scale of emotions we are feeling, we often then start to overreact to situations. These outbursts can begin to deteriorate relationships in our lives, harming our most important resource: community.
There is nothing wrong with strong emotions, but when anxiety, fear, anger or sadness are extreme in the face of relatively minor instances, you may be at the mercy of an emotional “flood.” This occurs when your emotions overwhelm your logic. One writer has described this phenomenon as “emotions roar and logic-based input … comes across with the power of a whisper.”
But change doesn’t have to be viewed in this way. As Lao Tzu suggests, change can also be viewed as a positive, necessary step in our growth as human creatures. Or as spiritual writer Steve Harper suggests, as a “gift.”
Something happens when life changes suddenly. Life looks different than it used to. Values change; conversations change; perspectives shift. We use our time differently. People become much more precious to us than possessions. Ordinary moments become charged with significance and with the energy of eternity. Prayer weaves its way into this tapestry, creating moments of reflection and gratitude. What seems to be loss on one level gets transformed into gain on another level.
One truth Jesus sought to recall for his first followers was that they had the soul force within, the resilience, to adjust to the new reality they confronted without him physically present to them. In many of the stories of resurrection appearances by Jesus he reminds the disciples what he taught them and what the scripture had to say about the Messiah. He was reconnecting them with the resources of their faith from which they could draw strength and help reorient them to the new reality they were living into.
We all possess this inner spiritual resilience which we can tap then life throws a change at us. We don’t have to give in to the flood of emotions that can threaten to overwhelm us. We can recall the light and strength that is within, around, and beyond and draw from our enormous soul capacity to spring back into shape.
Spiritual writer Patrick Fleming offers the following questions which you might ponder at such a time to help you tap into your spiritual resilience:
- Who are my soul friends, and how can I deepen my relationships with them”
- Who am I still, and who can I become, despite what I am experiencing?
- What plans do my soul and my God have for me in regard to this life challenge?
- What is the seed of hope buried in this change?
The answers to these questions are often slow to come in the midst of crisis and dislocation and change. However, just asking them of your soul and of your God will begin to summon the resilience that resides deep within you. Trust that it is there, even though you may not jet discern it or feel it. Your God-given resilience will, in time, spring you back to wholeness and to deeper and even more abundant life.
Finally, here is a Prayer for the Journey written by Junius Dotson for The Africana Worship Book, which you might find helpful as you confront change in this Easter season.
God of power, victory and might,
we confess to you that we are slow
to accept new possibilities for our lives.
Forgive us for being paralyzed by fear
and thoughts of what could have been.
Send you anointing to move us
beyond our places of fear and fried.
Send your anointing to strengthen us
for the twisting, turning journey
that lies ahead.
Send your anointing to guide us
into our destiny and to reap the harvest
you have in store for us.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
See you in church.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida