Day #32: Remembering

This day will be a day of remembering for you. You will observe it as a festival to the Lord. You will observe it in every generation as a regulation for all time.
Exodus 12:14

 In the last two days, forgiveness and seeing the good, I don’t mean to say that resilience is about selective memory or forceful forgetting. Resilience is not about glossing over traumatic experiences. It’s about reshaping the memory, finding containers for the memory so the remembering doesn’t spill over and gloop onto every moment of your life. Remembering is critical—you learn to tell the stories of pain in ways that empower you and reveal your strength and grace. This is why the Exodus from Egypt begins with a ritual of remembering. The Hebrew slaves observe the first Passover on the eve of their liberation, at God’s instruction. God gifts the people a container for the memory. God gifts a way to contain and transform the trauma of slavery. In the Christian tradition, Passover becomes the Last Supper and Good Friday. The trauma is different, as Christians anticipate Jesus’ brutal and unnecessary murder, but the practice is the same: to create space in the calendar for remembering, to have a container to put some boundaries on the power of that memory. It’s a process, and our rituals may require some adjusting year to year, but finding ways to remember without being overwhelmed by memory is one way of healing.

Takeaway: Today may be a time to revive an old ritual: light a candle for a loved one; read a favorite story; recite a comforting childhood prayer. If you’re observing Easter, maybe it’s a day to make plans for a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday (next week). Or, take a moment to establish a new remembering ritual today. I recently created a Prayer Jar, where I put the prayers that are too big or too overwhelming for me to carry alone. When I find myself getting overwhelmed by a worry, especially near bedtime, I write it down and put it in the jar, physically giving it to God and giving myself space to rest for the night. Look for containers for the sloshing memories you hold.

 

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

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Day #19: Art-making

 Both men and women came forward. Everyone who was eager to participate brought pins, earrings, rings, and necklaces, all sorts of gold objects….
-Exodus 35:22

Community art projects, at their beginnings, are mostly just piles of wood and paint. Blank chalkboards. Scraps of a first-grade arts supply cabinet. Exodus 35 is a community art project on steroids. This verse kicks off five chapters—FIVE—of tedious detail about the community’s glammed-out Arts & Crafts camp in the desert (“then they wrapped the yarn around the popsicle sticks, then they glued sequins onto the yarn,” etc. Read chapter 37 and tell me you don’t hear it). This art project is more than a creative interlude to pass the time in the desert. These five chapters of art-making parallel the five chapters of plague stories that occurred at the beginning of the book, while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. It’s a direct response to the experience of slavery and freedom, and this collectivist arts movement is a deliberate attempt to create a new culture that will not repeat the hierarchy and human rights abuses of Egypt. Everyone is invited to this creative enterprise that repurposes private wealth collected from the Egyptians into a shared living history museum and worship space, where the art signals collective hope, healing, and freedom. To make art is to reshape the objects around you into something more beautiful, expressive, meaningful. It’s a sort of resilience with your hands.

Takeaway: Four or five roommates back, I lived with two wonderful women who kept a Happiness Wall on a large sheet of butcher paper in the hallway. Anyone who stopped in added a picture or phrase of what made them happy, and over the months we lived together, our community art project became a visible sign of the laughter and love in our lives. Perhaps today is a good day to start a Happiness Wall in your home. Or, if it’s not, find another way to make a moment for creative space. Perhaps a few minutes of doodling during breakfast; sitting down with the guitar after work; making up a song in the car. Even if it’s making a salad, approach the process like an art project—cut the tomatoes in a different shape, throw some unused spice in the dressing. Give yourself permission to take the pieces of your day and create something unexpected, something beautiful, expressive, meaningful.

  

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Day #7: Awe

 Then Moses said to himself, Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up.
-Exodus 3:3

You could forgive Moses if he’d kept to himself. After all, the reason he ended up as a shepherd in the Midianite desert was because he couldn’t keep his nose out of other people’s business when he was a teenager in Egypt. But when Moses sees a bush on fire—a fire that keeps burning, not spreading and not dying—he lets himself get carried away. He says, “let me get closer to the thing that amazes me.” And, the next verse says, “When the LORD saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush.” And Moses responds, “Here I am.” Moses says “Here I am” to standing in awe. He says yes to being blown away by the sheer reality of being. Humans are very good at rationalizing their way out of awe, at keeping the miraculous and the unfathomably breathtaking at bay. Resilience, healing from wounds that threaten to harden your heart, is about remembering to stand in awe of goodness. It’s about coming to terms with the world’s greatest paradox: that beauty exists alongside, within, inside of, pain. And when we choose to blind ourselves to the awe-inspiring, we do so at the cost of our own resilience.

Takeaway:  Today, say “Here I am” to awe. Be easily impressed by stunning sights, or even by moderately cute ones. Be amazed by the fact of being. When something heartwarming catches your attention, let your heart be warmed. Spend three extra breaths with it. Stop to smell the flowers. Get caught staring at burning bushes. After all, how often do you get to see one?

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).