At this point in your semester, you are likely feeling the full crush of final exams yet longing for Christmas to be here and all to be quiet in the house. Time with friends and family awaits but there are still pressing, important matters, looming tests, and the constant and compelling crisis of time management that weigh on your mind. As one test bleeds into another, you may find yourself feeling hopelessly task saturated. The immediate academic demands for performance, rankings, affirmation that you are indeed worthy, and ultimately, your academic identity are at stake. Or is it?
Relief vs restoration
I spend precious time throughout my year at a family ranch in Flynn TX that has been in my family for 7 generations. I feel a stewardship to this property and to be honest, the upkeep can be a burden, however the gift of this place far outweighs the physical work to be done. I often identify these times of solitude and physical work with a place in my soul. I am able to see from my perch on the back deck, a field that leads down to a meadow and a spring fed creek. The field along with hundreds of acres were carved out of the TX wilderness by my great great grandparents using crosscut saws, burning stumps, and a team of mules. The clearing allowed for planting, harvesting, sustenance and growth. I cannot help but be reminded of how easy I have it. My coffee comes to me at the push of a button, I have the privilege of swiping a card to eat food at Penland, most all of my day-to-day needs are met. How is it possible that any of us can feel stress or anxious.
As I am sitting here writing, the beauty of a transcendent sunrise over the back pasture stirs my soul and gives rise to my awareness of how small I am and how majestic He is. There are levels of our thought life that traffic frequently in the crisis of now and the concerns of earthly things that must be done immediately. There are also levels of thought and prayer, that delve into a deeper reality of our position, significance, self-worth and value. Just as I begin to focus on the eternal, there is an agitated place in me that is clamoring for relief. Even though the morning washes over my soul and my thoughts begin to untangle and become clearer, I am seized by the carnival of desire, worry, ego, and concerns for the immediate. How unbelievable it is for our joy and deeper thoughts to be so easily hijacked by the temporal.
There are two kingdoms vying for our souls. The carnival of desires and distractions offer relief. For many, relief can be a bag of cookies, bottle of wine, Netflix binge, relationships, spending, or just checking out. Perhaps there is a heaviness in your earthly struggles. Everyone has a dream that shatters, illness, loss of a loved one, relationship breaks, career changes, and real despair. We are foreigners in a strange land. This is NOT our home. Remember, we are in exile! Resignation is a byproduct of a craving for relief. I believe early adulthood can be a battle between striving and indulging. The carnival offered relief, and the glorious beauty of the sunrise in a moment of deep peace offered restoration. One is temporary and demands our attention now. The other is eternal and requires our discipline and devotion. Time in nature heals, restores, and deeper thoughts about our Savior transforms us and renews our hearts and minds. This is where I need to stay and want to spend my time but I struggle to stay right here. Everything screams for my immediate attention. How do we balance these two worlds? The world of relief vs the world of restoration. We desire both. We need but one!
I stayed on the porch a little longer hoping to see a deer move through the creek bottom. I ask God to bring to mind those things He wants me to know. I want to seek His face, feel His presence, and trust His love. The clean smell of an early rain and the color of the trees against the sky in this early morning light help place me in the holiest of all sanctuaries. I am choosing to ignore the carnival of desires and demands that leave me in immediate need of relief and busyness. As soon as I check off the boxes of things to do, there are immediately more boxes. I am not advocating the abandonment of all responsibility in favor of a sanctimonious "God is in control" religiosity. On the contrary, I am charged with carrying the heaviest load He places on my shoulders. Remember, it is His will to work and to do that abides in me through the grace and strength of His might. God's invitations are subtle and always present. The sunrise came and went, my need for breakfast was raging, and yes, there are actually things to do. This will never change. My soul however had been disentangled, lifted, assured, and I received it. Perhaps it is this very practice that sustains me and guards my heart. Perhaps it is this very practice of seeking the wilderness in my soul and asking God to visit me there, that gives me strength to deal with unchecked boxes in my life.
Resilience as a spiritual discipline
I am always surprised by my quick turn towards acting like a victim. My list of grievances and areas I feel I have been transgressed well up when I am consumed with checking boxes. How quickly we blame others, situations, conditions, institutions, ideologies, and imaginary obstacles for our lack of comfort and "success." Will these conditions change? If they did change, would I suddenly walk in freedom?
The two worlds of Relief and Restoration are designed to grow us spiritually. We traffic simultaneously in both and I believe the charge is for us to develop a deeper love language with our creator AND build up our hearts and minds in such a way as to produce character, and endurance. But it is the practice of resilience that we must develop. It is a spiritual discipline. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" - 2 Cor. 4:17
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces [a]patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." - James 1:2-8
We often overlook spiritual disciplines and assume that spiritual maturity comes to us with knowledge or simply because we had a conversation experience. It comes to us through trials, experiences, and grace. It comes to us through testing, faith, and "setting our face like flint" and ultimately, it comes to us through daily practice. It comes to us through discipline, desire, and a "suffering" the daily renewing our our mind and choosing to walk in wisdom and trust. If we do not practice these things on a daily basis, then we are tossed, turned, driven, and indulgent. If we refuse to be shaped by God's design, then we are only seeking relief and thus shaped by other designs. If we indulge then we are living in the temporary world and not the beautiful place - not in the world of Restoration.
Sin is an incredibly unpopular topic, except when it is generalized in the way that "all have sinned" or glossed in the care and nurturing of the Baptist Christian tradition, and we are affirmed in our human condition because "all have sinned." It is comforting knowing that Im not necessarily worse off than everyone else.
Laying aside those things which so easily entangle our hearts and minds; the lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life, the carnivals of desire, and the entitlements of ideologies, takes intentionality, time, and requires our devotion. Sin, thanks to Adam, is the human condition that we must put to death daily. Yes, forgiveness is a free gift from our Lord and Savior but Paul exquisitely states, "so do we go on sinning, no, may it never be?" What is the reason for your stress? Why are you so easily swayed, angered, vexed, and separated from the world of Restoration? Laying hold of peace, redemption, and grace involves our submission and trust. This involves a "doing" on your part! This involves ritual. This is worth our work. This process is not cheap. This process involves practice!
The uncomfortable truth lies in our failure to hit the mark (sin) - failure to make proper sacrifices, failure to live and tell the truth, failure to trust, failure to reveal yourself or be revealed - all that weakens you. It is in this weakened state that you will be unable to thrive in the either world, and you will be of no benefit to yourself or others. You will fail and suffer, stupidly - I have and continue to do so. Living in the temporal stress of relief will corrupt your soul. How could it be otherwise? Life is hard enough when it is going well, but when it is going badly? Is this not worthy of our deepest hope?
What shall I do when I’m tired and impatient? Gratefully accept an outstretched helping hand. This is something with a twofold meaning. It’s an injunction, first, to note the reality of the limitations of individual being and, second, to accept and be thankful for the support of others—family, friends, acquaintances and strangers alike. Exhaustion and impatience are inevitable. There is too much to be done and too little time in which to do it. But we don’t have to strive alone, and there is nothing but good in distributing the responsibilities, cooperating in the efforts, and sharing credit for the productive and meaningful work thereby undertaken. - JBP 12 Rules
What is your hope in? Do you hope the world will work itself out? Do you hope to get an A? Do you hope to be happy? What is the actual object of your desire? Is happiness a condition or a product? Do we hope in the right things? The journey to developing resilience is a gift and is conditional on where our hope rests.
Lastly, I would submit that it is precisely these sacraments of ritual, studying the Word of God, the Last Super, Baptism, fellowship with the body of Christ and ultimately, a daily desire to submit your will to the will of God that gives us resilience. This my dear friends is so difficult, but it is this life of freedom, peace, and long suffering that will allow us to traffic in a foreign land.
Formation series this January in the HRC - "The Practice of Resilience"
The series will focus on the necessity and charge to approach life with a determined mindset to developing strength during times of adversity. By seeking true restoration, rather than relief, instills purpose and fortitude. Practicing strength in times of adversity is a spiritual practice that must be developed. Drawing wisdom from scripture, Christian tradition, and developing a community of service-related experiences and practices, we will uncover concepts to help build the vital discipline of resilience in our daily lives. Peace through unwavering faith and living in the mindset of a transcendent purpose.
- recovery from trauma
- supernatural graces
- intentionality of practicing resilience
- abiding vs visiting
The HRC Academic Committee has been discussing failure, resilience, and fear.
What has been your biggest failure?
What are your fears/worries for the future?
What do you do to bounce back from failure?
Are there specific people/resources that helped you come back from failure?
What does failure look like to you?
What events in your life constitute failure?
List 3 words you associate with failure.
Is your mindset about failure more standards for yourself or external standards?
What do you feel are the consequences of your failure?
How do you approach setbacks/roadblocks?
How do you get in the mindset of taking risks without overwhelming fear of failure?
Wishing you a Merry Christmas:
It has been an honor meeting each of you. I have enjoyed our conversations and I continue to be impressed by the level of dedication, talent, and stewardship in the HRC. May the peace of the Lord be with you this Christmas season. We ask that you travel safe and to spend time during the break reflecting on God's grace, mercy, and love. Seek His face, Feel His presence, and Trust His love.
Professor of Trombone, Baylor School of Music
Faculty in Residence, University House, North Village
Director ~ Mountain Light Music Festival