This evening those of us in the northwest are waiting out a dire warning of a pending, historically significant windstorm. Already I am watching the tall trees sway precariously this way and that and suddenly whipped by a sharper gust that tests them even further. Even greater winds up to sixty or seventy miles an hour winds are to follow. The sensory impact is a combination of excitement, awe and fear for the welfare of the exposed trees and our houses and cars underneath them. Nature literally has sway over their world at the moment, and we humans are relegated to anxious bystanders.
I can’t help comparing my experience of watching the storm building around me with my anxiety over the presidential campaign in particular, and national politics, and the fate of the world in general. Like the windstorm, sudden gusts of unexpectedly dangerous rhetoric, scandalous exposures and bellicosity seem to stress an already precarious buildup of uncertainly and worry. And too much of the time I also feel like an anxious bystander only able to watch with a combination of awe and fear as our world faces dire warnings of impending disaster.
In moments and times like this I think of the term resilience that the dictionary defines as “the capacity to recover; toughness." Even though the branches of the trees are mercilessly buffeted I am amazed at how they are able to sway back and forth without shearing off. Some, of course, will succumb, but most will have the capacity to recover from the trauma of the wind without too much damage or harm. I am not sure how much reassurance I am allowed to take along these lines - there is, after all, a breaking point for trees as well as persons, community, governments and cultures - but over and over again in my life I have seen amazing recoveries from seemingly overwhelming difficulties. I have seen deeply broken relationships healed and restored; I have seen dictators fall; I have seen “what love can do” in times of deprivation, catastrophe, and war zones; I have seen levels of courage I didn’t think possible.
Life has it’s own resiliency. In theological terms mercy, justice, and grace provide the means toward recovery and forgiveness, although never guaranteed, nor often without effort, pain and sacrifice. If you add joy and humor and some serious truth telling, resiliency becomes a powerful way of coping with our lives!
I suppose it is only fair to say that ultimately the ability to weather the storms of life - natural, political, personal - is to carry on with the resiliency available to us through love, community, faith, and example. And we begin with our own lives. I and others will be attentive tomorrow to anyone around us who received damage from the storm. Many of us will be working toward the healing of our nation following the terrible buffeting it is taking during this political season and the ongoing divisions among us. And an increasing number of us will continue to work nonviolently for justice and peace and the healing of the natural environment, for all life.
Each of us, like our trees, has an amazing capacity for resilience. Honor, claim and nurture that resilience as we work together to deal with the varieties of storms and anxieties that threaten and challenge us in these difficult times.