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Faithful Resilience
Faithful Resilience

Faith and Resilience

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Father Richard defines resilience in the context of the Christian faith:

Resilience is really a secular word for what religion was trying to say with the word faith. Even Jesus emphasized faith more than love. Without a certain ability to let go, to trust, to allow, we won’t get to any new place. If we stay with order too long and we’re not resilient enough to allow a certain degree of disorder, we don’t get smarter, we just get rigid.

Unfortunately, this is what characterizes so many religious people. They’re not resilient at all. Then there’s another set of people who have settled down in disorder—believing there’s no pattern, there’s nothing always true. It’s a deep cynicism about reality, and that’s equally problematic. I think such faith in both good order and acceptable disorder—creating a new kind of creative reorder—is actually somewhat rare. [1]

To have faith, to grow toward love, union, salvation, or enlightenment, we must be moved from order to disorder and then ultimately to reorder.

Eventually our ideally ordered universe—our “personal salvation” project [2], as Thomas Merton called it—must and will disappoint us, if we are honest. Our spouse dies, we were rejected on the playground as a child, we find out we’re needy, we fail an exam for a coveted certification, or we finally realize that many people are excluded from our own well-deserved “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is the disorder stage, or what Christians call from the Adam and Eve story the “fall.” It is necessary in some form if any real growth is to occur; but some of us find this stage so uncomfortable we try to flee back to our first created order—even if it is killing us and the very things we love.

There is no nonstop flight to reorder. Various systems call it “enlightenment,” “exodus,” “nirvana,” “heaven,” “springtime,” or even “resurrection.” Reorder is life on the other side of death, the victory on the other side of failure, the joy on the other side of the pains of childbirth. It is an insistence on going throughnot under, over, or around. To arrive there, we must endure, learn from, and include disorder, transcending the first naïve order—but also still including it!

Happiness is the spiritual outcome and result of resilience, full growth, and maturity. This is why I am calling it “reorder.” Ultimately, we are taken to happiness—we cannot find our way there by willpower or cleverness. Yet we all try! We seem insistent on not recognizing the universal pattern of growth and change. Trees grow strong by reason of winds and storms. Boats are not meant to stay in permanent dry dock or harbor. Baby animals must be educated by their mothers in the hard ways of survival, or they almost always die young. It seems that each of us has to learn on our own what is well hidden but also in plain sight. [3]

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Soapbox interview, “How Jon Hamm and Rob Dyrdek Stay Resilient,” The Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2021.

[2] Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2005), xii.

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent Books, 2019, 2021), 247–248, 249, 250, 252.

Image credit and inspiration:  Thays Orrico, Untitled (detail), Brazil, 2020, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

We keep the candles lit together throughout the joys and pains of human life.

Story from Our Community:  

I used to consider myself “left of center” in reference to my Catholic Christian faith, but recently I have found that saying I am near the “edge” is a more inclusive way to describe my experience. As a member of a 12-Step fellowship, I rejoice at the similarities of being in recovery and living on the edge of an ever-unfolding spiritual experience. God keeps revealing his great love for us! I am grateful. —Renee T.

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