Human beings are amazing! We have a unique capacity to move through overwhelmingly difficult circumstances and toward living in ways that are dynamic and vibrant. In the field of mental health, this ability is called resiliency. It’s an aspect of human experience that is the focus of research and discussion among mental health providers today because resiliency is vital in the treatment of serious mental health problems.
Resiliency is not a new topic. Rather, the human capacity for resiliency is rooted in the ancient human psyche and embodied in mythology from many cultures. Over this week, Jews and Christians ritualize the stories from their traditions that powerfully convey resiliency.
As this week begins, Jews mark the Passover of the ancient Israelites from the slavery of Egypt to new life in the Promised Land. The stories of Exodus are much more than an account of events whose historicity is questioned by modern scholars. Rather, Exodus provides a legendary account of people whose value had been stripped from them who went on to living rich, full lives in the land of milk and honey. The Exodus is a story of transformation about people socially, economically, and politically oppressed who find the inner strength and resources to create a community and culture that became vibrant and enduring. This is a story whose potency continues to inspire oppressed people to work for justice some four thousand years after it was first recorded.
This week continues as Christians mark the solemn days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. By remembering the saga of the last days of the life of Jesus, Christians have the opportunity to discover parts of themselves in the narrative of a person who was unjustly accused and condemned, who embraced suffering and torture, and then moved beyond the horrific experience to new life.
The power of myth is that myth touches something deep within us and inspires us to consider our lives differently than before. As I read the stories associated with the events of this week, I am aware that the authors of these stories were not journalists attempting to convey up-to-the-minute reports. Their concern was not the details of the events. Instead, the intention of the Biblical writers was to convey a message that would inspire. Thousands of years after the original events, the stories remain inspiring because the experience of the people in the stories is also our experience. We each have been treated as “less than” others – objectified and minimalized. We’ve each been falsely accused and treated unjustly. Each of us to some measure has known suffering, often suffering silently with no one knowing the pain we experience. These legendary stories connect with this universal experience of the unfairness of life and provide a hope and inspiration for moving beyond life’s difficulties to something more than we could have imagined possible.
Before going to bed the other evening, I skimmed a news web site and saw a headline asking a question: Is resurrection compatible with science? I rolled my eyes as I powered-down the computer. “Talk about missing the point!” I thought to myself. The amazing power of the story of the resurrection of Jesus isn’t about a dead body being resuscitated. Dead bodies are resuscitated everyday in hospitals around the world. The story of the resurrection of Jesus isn’t about resuscitating the dead but about finding life in new and unimagined ways. The life of Jesus after the resurrection is markedly different from his life before the resurrection. In the same way, the life of the Hebrew people is fundamentally different after the exodus than before. It is that transformation to new life, the potent resiliency of spirit that opens us to new life that is the miracle these religious holidays celebrate.
As people of the Judeo-Christian tradition mark the foundational events of their religious tradition, we have the opportunity to recall the great sagas of these traditions and be inspired by their ability to touch the core of human experience. Even in the midst of very difficult challenges, life can be renewed. The resiliency of the human spirit can draw us from suffering to a new life described as a land of milk and honey. The resiliency of the human spirit can empower us to pass through rejection and isolation to find hope. Yes, the resiliency that the human spirit offers is the foundation of our ability to find life in new and renewing ways.
© 2011, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.