a little while ago a friend of mine was telling me what he was learning in the overseas adoption book he was reading. he and his wife are dear friends of ours, and they are adopting 2 boys from ethiopia. we are all so excited for their arrival into our extended family! he was sharing how their responsibility as a parent was to help these boys, who have been orphaned, cultivate “connection, resiliency, and identity.” these 3 words powerfully sunk in, and i had this flash across my mind that these are 3 things that most everyone i intersect with is trying to cultivate in some way, shape or form! so many i know, both in and outside of the refuge community, are somehow “orphaned” and these 3 things–connection, resiliency & identity–get stunted, lost, wounded, broken, some-how-messed-up. to me, part of our spiritual/emotional growth & transformation comes from growing in our ability to connect with others, ourselves, God and our ability to bounce back from adversity & life’s struggles, and in discovering our true identity.
since then, i have used this thought to stir up a few conversations in some different groups/venues i facilitate; every time, in different ways, everyone seems to resonate with the need to cultivate more of these 3 things in our lives. in terms of nurturing the refuge community, i’d say that these 3 things are core areas that i hope become stronger and healthier for not just my friends, but for me, too.
i have no idea how the adoption book defined these 3 words, but here’s my translation; they are definitely slanted toward grownups and our spiritual & emotional journies:
- ability to be connected to others, ourselves, God
- flow instead of stuckness
- attached & not lonely
- ability to absorb pain & struggle but not let it kill us
- a “bounce-back-ness” that isn’t fake or denying but real & deep
- meeting calamity with serenity (one of my favorite lines from AA material)
- embracing our story instead of running from it
- a deep sense of knowing who we are apart from others
- on a solid foundation, with deep roots
each time i have shared these 3 words, the one that everyone seems to focus in on the most is “identity.” maybe it’s because so many of us have gotten “lost” or “orphaned” along the way. we don’t know who we really are. we are not on a firm foundation of love & hope. there’s far too much insecurity & brokenness & lack of confidence, and loss of freedom & hope & purpose for so many of us. and whether we’ve been part of “the church” or not hasn’t seemed to make the difference it was probably supposed to make. sure, we talk about identity in Christ, but i will be honest, most of the conversations in the typical churchey ways haven’t lead to the kind of true freedom, creativity, hope, and peace that i think was always God’s idea for us.
i am not God, of that i am quite sure. at the same time, sometimes i think of my heart for my kids and those that i love dearly & how passionate i am on their behalf, how much i want for them, how fierce and deep my heart is for them to know they are beautiful, loved, treasured, valued. and i am reminded in those moments of how God must feel about us on such a bigger, wider, much wilder scale. and in reflecting on my kids, i can firmly say that i hope each of them grow to be very solid in terms of these 3 things. i want them to feel connected, be resilient, and be sure of their identities. already, even with 2 somewhat solid parents & a lot of pouring into, i see how tricky it is for these things really take hold. but they’re worth cultivating & fighting for & caring about. they’re worth focusing energy on. they’re worth praying for & nurturing & teaching in really tangible ways. and i don’t want them for my kids (my real kids & my “adopted” family ) just so they can have an “easier life.” i want these things for them so that they can live more fully, try more crazy things, be willing to chase their dreams, be brave enough to stand up for what they believe, to risk more on behalf of others. i do believe that the more these things are developed in us, the better off the world is & that the “kingdom now” is far more present despite the world’s brokenness.
yeah, i think we all have a little part to play in helping others cultivate connection, resiliency & identity. and i think we need others to help us develop these things in ourselves as well. it is a lifelong process, but i think that there are seasons where we might need more intention on them than others.
here are some of the questions i have tossed out in a few groups conversations to consider:
- how is connection, resiliency, or identity being cultivated in your life right now?
- what’s hard about it?
- what’s good about it?
- this year, which of these feels like one that might need more attention than the other?
in reflecting on these questions in a few different contexts, i shared that i was feeling halfway good in the connection department; in fact, i could use a little less connection with people, ha ha, but always a little more in the God one. i am also hoping to continue to grow in resiliency & my ability to “bounce back” from adversity & conflict. learning the fine art of freedom from codependence is not easy or cheap, especially when it’s a natural reflex. i have encountered several really hard things in the past few weeks where i noticed a shift in “bend-back-into-shapeness” that wasn’t denial or fakeness but actually something deeper, better. and, like so many of my friends, the one that feels the strongest is to grow in my true identity. as i keep growing up & healing & learning & changing, i want to step into the reality that this life as a community cultivator is in my bones & heart & what i’m supposed to be doing and to live out of that freedom and strength. and at the same time, that is just one part of me. i am much more than only this. or being a mom. or a wife. or a friend. i must always remember that, otherwise who i am is tied to something that isn’t permanent or anchored in the deep. yeah, i am learning that i am a woman made to dream, to hope, to create, to love, to live dangerously, to try things that are meant to be tried and to not worry so much about success or failure because those things don’t really matter. understanding that i am 43 years old & probably pretty done with the first half of my life & don’t want to spend the last half worrying so much about what people think. knowing that i want to notice the beauty in God’s work in my life and those around me each and every day and be less impatient. I want to radically intersect with the gospel not just for others but for myself, too. yeah, i want my roots to go down deep and be anchored in God’s love, hope, and peace in the midst of all of the wild twists & turns of real life. i want to live on solid ground.
anyway, i think these words are going to linger for me. i think they should somehow be cornerstones in developing & nurturing places of healing so that more-alive-bonded-healther-stronger-free-er-grounded people can emerge (and i think that’s what “the church” is supposed to be about).
i’d love to hear some of your reactions to these words. how are these being cultivated in your life right now? what do you long for more of? what are you learning along the way?