Resurrection People

Not long ago I read the story behind the photo of a mother curled around her infant in a crib that had gone viral in 2016. The mother, Dayna Magner, had climbed into her daughter’s crib in hopes of soothing “my screaming, teething, blushed face, and tear soaked little girl” and in response to a promise. Not long after giving birth, Dayna had heard a missionary describe his experience of being in an orphanage in Uganda. Upon entering a nursery with 100 cribs filled with babies, he found only an eerie silence. The explanation was heartbreaking: after about a week of them being here, and crying out for countless hours, they finally stop when they realize no one is coming for them. On hearing that, Dayna made a promise to her infant daughter that she would always come to her—to remind her that no matter what, through all of life’s ups and downs—she is heard and loved.

At the very heart of what it means to be alive, to be human, is this need for intimacy, for companionship that goes beyond the surface. This essential communion, where one experiences being vulnerable and safe at the same time, is necessary not only as infants but throughout our lives. Whenever we are not met with loving presence and caring action, however large or small the incident, we experience trauma, whether we call it that or not. While most of us are drawn to a helpless infant, we tend to be uncomfortable when confronted with what is helpless, vulnerable and weak in ourselves or other adults. In the resurrection stories, Jesus comes to his disciples in their fear and weakness, over and over sharing his peace—his wholeness—with them, until they finally experience at some deep level that he is always with them, particularly when they are present and loving toward themselves, each other and all people. They become a resurrection people.

In a talk on the Spirituality of Healing, psychologist and wisdom teacher James Finley, uses the tripod to depict the three components necessary for healing trauma and living a generous, grounded, abundant life: the ability to 1.) be fully present to ourselves and others leading to 2.) being tenderhearted, toward that which hurts, leading to 3.) a capacity for effective action, making choices that contribute to the healing of the suffering. Trauma compromises our ability to do one or more of these steps. Stress can easily tip our tripods over. The suffering in our world arises from human beings who themselves have experienced trauma being unable to be compassionate with themselves and others, in turn causing more trauma and suffering. And yet, any time we risk being present and tenderhearted toward ourselves or others, taking the action most conducive to healing, the risen Christ is present. We become resurrection people.

I’m grateful for the support of the parish—especially our amazing staff, wardens and vestry—during this healing process, as I allow my own tripod to stabilize once again. Some of you have wanted to know what is helpful to my healing. In addition to working with my excellent medical team, it includes 1.) working to improve my cognitive function through social interaction, game playing and reading, 2.) increasing my physical strength and endurance at the wellness center or in the neighborhood 3.) supporting my overall wellbeing by taking plenty of breaks between things, having fun, spending time with family and friends, and getting enough sleep. During my time, I am practicing being fully present to myself, with compassion, and seeking to take actions in support of my healing.

It is my hope you also will be practicing what it means to be present with each other, tenderhearted toward what hurts in yourself and the other, and taking steps to relieve suffering and promote healing in your lives, our community of faith and in the world. Please lean in to one another—as we did last Sunday during Stephen’s beautiful prayer for my healing and for the vitality of our parish—offering yourself so that the body is strengthened. Know I will be praying for you and present with you, even when you don’t see me. I give you to each other and to God not for safe keeping only, but for your flourishing. The risen One is at work in you and me and in all creation. Together with the author of Ephesians:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Faithfully and with love,

Pastor Elizabeth

P.S. If you choose to respond to this email, please know I will be delighted to receive them.  Future Reflections will continue, written by leaders in the parish—enjoy!