I was wondering what theme might be helpful as we experience the buffeting and anxiety that comes with testing times and the word that came to mind was resilience.
My thesaurus offers me two alternative words for resilience: strength and elasticity.
With both words comes imagery:
Rocks, fortresses, and foundations speak to me of strength
Stretchy clothes elastic, chewing gum and latex resistance fitness bands are examples that come to mind of elasticity.
Seeing these two words in the thesaurus makes me think we should be able to separate them. To have resilience is to have strength or to have resilience is to be elastic depending on the context. However, the more I reflect upon the word, the more I believe they say more about resilience together than apart.
To have resilience is to have both strength and elasticity; to be able to endure the bend and stretch that a given challenge requires of us while simultaneously having enough strength not to break. The image that then comes to mind which combines both strength and elasticity is that of a tree.
Great trees can fall under the pressure of great wind but they can take a lot of wind before they finally do so. They can move to and fro and yet remain solidly and strongly rooted in place.
The invitation is to read slowly through what follows two or three times before imagining the scene again in prayer.
Begin by sitting comfortably but in a way that encourages you to be alert - back straight, feet planted firmly on the ground, arms relaxed, hands settled on your lap.
Focus on your breath for a time; breathing deeply in and exhaling fully out. Imagine that with each breath you are drawing in the love of God and with each breath out you are releasing all that holds you back from experiencing the fullness of that love.
As you continue to sit, I invite you to imagine a tree, to picture its trunk, solid and settled in the earth; a strong and firm base which reaches out and down through its roots into the ground. It is stable. It is anchored by the many lateral roots and shoots that not only stretch out around it but cut deep in to the earth. A central tap root goes deeper than all the others, drilling down into the ground, finding water and sustenance as well as stability.
Above ground the trunk rises up until it bifurcates, creating a heart from which other growth can come as branches shape the structure of a canopy overhead; branches that although strong are supple and can move gently in a passing breeze or flex in great wind.
The tree stands firm in its landscape.
I invite you now to stand and, like a tree, to stand tall, to imagine yourself rooted and held in the earth of God’s love and care for you; to imagine yourself refreshed by the gentle touch of his Spirit on the breeze. If you want to, you can reach upwards and outwards with your arms and sway left to right, forward and back as a tree might in the wind.
Then sit again and rest for a time with these words of the Psalmist:
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord,
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27: 13 & 14 (NIV)
The invitation is to spend some time contemplating these different images of trees and roots.
Contemplation, in the sense that I use the word, is the invitation to allow your attention to linger on what you see with an open and attentive spirit.
As you look, you are also listening to what the photos are saying to you in what you notice and in what reflections come to mind.
Contemplation is transformative; what you hear can change you.
To take your reflections deeper, I would invite you to meditate on this scripture from the book of Jeremiah.
Meditation, in the way that I am using the word here and unlike the gentle receptive act of contemplation, is a more active process of the mind as you wrestle with the text, chew on it, and look to understand and allow its deeper meaning to work transformation as well.
Jeremiah 17: 7 & 8 (NIV)
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
The resilience of the tree depends on its roots and water.
In what are you rooted?
Take some time to consider what your reflections have revealed for you; how the Holy Spirit may be stirring in you. Bring this response to God in a further time of prayer – asking for what grace you may need, giving thanks for what you may have received.
© Sarah Dickinson