‘The Elasticity of Youth’

10 May

A Changing World – Week 8

resilience

noun

1.
the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

2.
the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

There is something about the word ‘resilience’ that I love, it’s got a little bit of power in it, it feels good to say and it feels even greater to possess. I have been reflecting on my inability to adapt to the current situation as each week passes. I don’t think I was designed to be in lockdown and I am discovering just how set in my ways I am. But I want to learn and I have noticed a good way to learn is to take a lead from my son Zach who is 9. Both him, and our youth group it seems, have this almost Marvel-like superpower and are able to ‘flex’ a bit more in these crazy times.

Now I am not saying it is all perfect and it has been good to check in with our group each week and have some quality time laughing, sharing but also finding out how they feel, honestly.

But the more I think about this word resilience, I realise it is an actual superpower, it can give you strength, save you, save others and enable you to perform feats which without it would be impossible. I am not sure I possess this superpower yet but I am surrounded by people that I can learn from. To look to Zach as a start point I think the key to resilience from him is being thankful for the everyday and also seeing the joy in the utterly simple things. I am humbled each night when we pray with Zach that he gives thanks, even after a relatively ordinary day, for an amazing day, amazing meals and prays that tomorrow “will be even better than today.” I know something I hope to do this week is to start making a list of all the things I am thankful for, maybe you could do that to, it will act as a reminder of good things when you find yourself having a harder day.

The truly gifted Claire from 267 is now running an Instagram page with the help of her family, it is called ‘havenrsilience’ and that has given me some great wisdom regarding the topic of resilience and control. This is what it says: “for this to work we need to notice what we are spending our mental energy on and then intentionally focus on the things we CAN directly influence.” So I can’t control lockdown, when the virus will end or other people’s behaviour or even how much loo roll there is. But I do have a bit of control over how much time I spend on social media, how often I enjoy being out in God’s creation (near where I live) and taking time to simply breathe! It has really helped me think about how much time and energy I spend on things I cannot alter. Zach has a much simpler and refreshing outlook on life and I think his more youthful and thankful approach is actually the key to discovering the superpower of resilience. I guess things are a little simpler when we are younger; food is provided, getting a job isn’t high on the agenda, making sure the house is clean and tidy doesn’t always seem to be important! But what being younger has reminded me is, particularly in my boy, is the art of ‘simple joy’. What I mean by that is allowing the very obvious things, the very simple things in life, to be what restores us and feeds us.

There will be time to work again, to clean the house again, to prioritise our jobs again, but maybe for some of us that isn’t now. There was a Twitter feed a few days ago where people were listing off a bunch of stuff they were doing or was happening in lockdown which was helping them get through each day. Here are some of my favourites:

– getting post

– re-reading favourite books

– coffee beans hand ground each morning

– dogs

– Friday night takeaway

– West End musicals on the TV

– sleeping

– bikes

– dancing for no reason

– doing less laundry

– quizzes on Zoom

– blossom (on the trees not the 80’s TV show!)

– using a projector to watch films

– listening to the birds on the more quiet streets

– sunny walks

– evening walks

– normal people

– hot cross buns

– baking

– (add your own!)

Strangely all these things are fairly simple, and bizarrely we could have done them all before lockdown. I think the key to resilience at this time is grabbing hold and embracing these ‘simple joys’. They may just give us enough light and life to take us through out the other side of lockdown. But maybe also once things are relatively ‘normal’ again, my hope is that they will daily remind us about what is important in life and what should be held tightly and invested in more often.

One of my favourite clips in one of my favourite films is from Incredibles 2. There is a scene where Jack-Jack discovers the vast array of powers he has and decides to ‘test’ them out on a rather unfortunate raccoon. There is a sense that he is discovering all these things for the first time and there is an innocent playful joy in each moment. As I look around some of the young people and kids we are journeying with I see them embracing these simple joys. They are re-reading books from their childhood, they are baking and dropping of cakes to neighbours, they are learning new musical instruments, they are playing silly games with family, they are dressing up, making posters, chalking on pavements, creating Zoom games and generally allowing ‘simple joy’ to be their rhythm of life. Kids are a beautiful wonder and possible possess the superpower we all need to be able to get through lockdown with as few scars as possible.

If you have ever wanted to be a superhero now is your chance; discover resilience, practice resilience, invest in behaviour that will enable you to be more resilient, observe the children and young people in your life, seek the simple joys in life.

“Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”

Isaiah 49:13 NIV

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”

Psalms 65:8 NIV

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.”

Psalms 96:11-12 NIV

It is interesting that throughout the bible creation reacts with joy! We have the heavens shouting for joy, mountains bursting into song, trees singing for joy and the sea resounding. I wasn’t sure what resound meant so I looked it up what and it says “to fill or echo throughout a place.” The earth, it seems, is responding to what is going on around it, and its response is to sing, to shout for joy and to allow it’s joyful voice be heard in a resounding way! How is it a mountain sings more than me, a tree is more joyful than me? Now I know both the mountains and trees have a certain creative splendour that maybe I do not, but come on Mike, sing! It is worth noting at this point although I do not possess a great singing voice I do love to sing, but don’t think it is going to be anywhere public soon!

I began with this definition of resilience: the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

I wonder whether my own ability to ‘spring back into shape’ will be helped by my embracing of simple joys. To be honest I am finding the lockdown hard but I am also aware of many, many things that are bringing me joy. Like many people I am discovering simple joys in the ordinary, in things that were always there but maybe I was too busy to notice!

Did Superman always know how to use his powers, did Jack-Jack carry on playing with his abilities, discovering what he was able to do or did they just know? Either way there is a sense we don’t just find resilience, we learn it, we build it within us through the experiences we face. I think we learn it by being more aware of what is in our control and what is not. So much is out of my hands at the moment and I really need to let some of those things go. But there is much I can hold onto; a vast array of simple joys, of people, of child-like activities, that will feed my soul.

Maybe like creation I should spend some time singing out, rejoicing, resounding the simple joys in my life, they will then act as a reminder to me for what I have. Maybe then my superpower of resilience will grow, encourage others and enable me to make it through to whatever is next.

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