Little Miss Introvert struggled socially through the first four months of Second Grade. I dreaded the painful public loneliness of twice-daily recess. I was not adept at making friends. Mostly because I wouldn’t actually talk to anyone.
Still, by Christmas, somehow I had managed to make a breakthrough with a couple of patient souls.
Then in early January I got the flu. I stayed home for a week before my mother deemed me well enough to return. I didn’t especially want to go back. Mom had waited on me hand and foot. But mostly, I was terrified to go back into the social scene of the classroom. Afraid to start over making friends, trying to fit in.
It seemed like a mountain I could never climb again.
As the absent days accumulated into weeks, the situation grew tense. But rather than yelling or making me feel like a failure, my mother pointed out where I had been successful. She mentioned that I was, like Jesus, kind and a good listener, that I was helpful to others. She said, “You are needed in Mrs. Kaufman’s classroom.”
Mom didn’t know it, but she was on Session 3 in my Active Parenting curriculum. She was teaching me how to be resilient by giving me courage. By en-couraging me. We all need encouragement to be resilient.
This encouragement is more than cheering someone up. It is cheering them on.
In Parenting class, I always pull out a Bozo punching bag. I changed his name to Mr. Resilient. (Sorry, Dad.) I use him to demonstrate how disappointment and defeat can knock him down time after time. But he always comes back up. Like a rubber band stretched by life beyond our capacity, we must spring back to be useful again.
We must learn this resilience. It is not easy. It is not natural.
Most importantly, we can’t do it alone. The main ingredient in resilience must be supplied by others, as in so many areas of Christianity. We need each other to be resilient. Social Researcher Dr. Brene Brown believes the most important factor in building resilience is being connected to and supported by others.
My younger daughter has recently taken up rock-climbing. Always the family mountain goat on hikes, we were concerned, but not surprised. In climbing, you must have someone to belay you, to help you by securing your rope to an anchor point. You can’t climb the mountain alone.
All of life is like that.
Last year, I was unexpectedly knocked back down by worsening heart failure. Immediately, my broken-in prayer warriors put me back upright and I marched on, secured to my Anchor. Not healed, but determined to continue the battle.
I need you to help me find courage to emerge from those hard places. To come back from the sock in the gut or the knife to the back. To scale the threatening mountain, again and again. It is the calling of every person to dispense this resilience-building encouragement.
But the courage we need to rise again is not the bravery to take on risk of physical harm or to become super-hero-like, unaffected by danger. It is different. Courage stems from someone pointing out Christ in your life.
It tells us: You are His. You will win no matter how this current battle ends.
Not that we in life will overcome everything, but that God in eternity already has.
Encourage one another. Be Barnabas at every opportunity.
My friend has a longstanding personal card ministry. She has tirelessly maintained it (despite rising costs of cards and postage, and decreasing energy). Even through the loss of her husband and other major life detours. The cards have been a huge encouragement to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. But perhaps her own resilience is the most encouraging act of all.
I learned from this friend that in encouraging someone else, we recognize courage in ourselves. And resilience thrives. One way the sturdy mesh of Christianity binds us together in ways we realize throughout life.
We need to point out the soul-sightings of Christ we see in the lives of others. We must highlight specific evidence of God’s grace-light for others whose vision has grown dim during a dark journey.
The suffering believer Paul mentioned it often in his writings and letters. A resilient warrior in the trenches, he knew the life-sustaining force of encouragement.
In this world, you will have trouble. Expect it. But take this deep into your heart: He has already overcome the world, and all the trouble in it.
This coming year, some of the trees you have carefully planted and tended will become stumps. An investment will go south, a disease will return. A once-conquered temptation will haunt you again. In 2019, you will get bruised or even crushed. You will thirst for something you can’t reach on your own. You will ache over the loss of a dream or a job or a confidence. You will hear a dire medical diagnosis or suffer a serious personal tragedy.
But we are co-conquerors, co-heirs, co-risers.
The Savior showed us that the best way to render the Enemy powerless is to rise again in resurrected resilience. Christ wants us back on our feet, so together we can embody this epic story of grace as best we can.
Empowered by my mother’s encouraging words, I began the day I returned to Second Grade to look for others who were lonely in my class. My vision of myself and others had been changed forever.
Through encouragement, we can highlight Christ in others’ lives. We can help build resilience.
To spring back from the trouble waiting for us in 2019.
To scale the mountain we were never meant to climb alone.
To face Mrs. Kaufman’s classroom once more. And search for others who need this life-restoring resilience as much as we do.