Saturday 9 January 2010

Member Care and Resiliency--Part 4

Salquatic Humans
Tear system for the right eye,
including the lacrimal gland (top left) and tear ducts (center right)—Wikipedia.

Human resiliency is the ability to face reality:
to deal with and grow through life’s challenges.

How resilient are you?
You may never know until you weep.
Sometimes its helpful to create new terms, like salquatic. Its roots are Latin-based. This term is made up of two words: salis for salt and aqua for water. When you combine and contract them a bit you get the adjective/word salquatic, meaning "capable of crying"—ranging from being tearful to having tear flows.

Let’s combine the first two entries on resiliency (16, 28 December 2009)--emphasizing water and salt metaphors. We want to now focus on our special capacity to cry as humans.

Tears are a hydro-saline substance comprised of water (H20) and salt (NaCl). You know, saltwater. They are formed and stored in special repositories (glands, see illustration above) from which this substance is emitted, especially during times of strong emotion. I like to think of our tear glands as being filled with emotional saltwater.

Humans are salquatic.
And some are more so than others.
It is an amazing, healing, resiliency-building ability.

Resiliency and Pain
Resilient people are able to express their pain to others and to share the pain of others. They can cry. They can weep. They can express a vast range of “healing feeling” as humans, including deep sadness. They can certainly be negatively impacted by injustice and abuse, lost friendships, death of loved ones, and a host of other wrenching experiences. Yet because resilient people endeavor to squarely face their challenges, they are not usually overwhelmed. Their hearts can break but not be shattered. Their hearts can wound but also mend. They can call upon three intertwining qualities to help them manage reality:

1. inner strength, especially perseverance
2. good social support
3. deep sense of meaning in life, including belief in God.

Crying and at times weeping are key parts of human relationships, the healing process, and the further development of resiliency. Resilient people embrace all of their emotions and they help others do the same.

We along with other colleagues have certainly been learning what it means to be salquatic humans over the last few years. At times we have felt very much like Jeremiah, known for his broken heart as he persevered unsuccessfully in exhorting Judah to return wholeheartedly to YHWH (e.g., ‘but if you will not listen my soul will sob in secret and my eyes will bitterly weep;’ Jer. 13:15-19). We can also relate very much to “Paul et al” who were so often ‘afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing…so that the life or Christ would be more fully manifested through them’ (2 Cor. 4:7-12). Like the many Biblical models, we do not give up. We persevere until truth and justice prevail.

Jeremiah, by Michelangelo, 1508-1512

Quotes, Notes, and More
1. Conference. Here is another entry from Dr. Vance and Dr. Bethyl Shepperson’s weblog, The Encouragers (22 November 2009). It is a notation from a presentation by Scott Shaum on resiliency at the Mental Health and Missions Conference (19-22 November 2009).

“Comfort does not mean removal of trouble. Comfort means Presence in midst of trouble. God’s presence requires my presence. God with skin on Him. My and your arms, legs, ears. So in midst of trouble look for God at work. It’s a construction zone. Slow down. Hard hat, open heart—the path of Gospel ministry. Don’t assume you are doing something wrong, bad, or are being punished. Look with the eye of a miner who is digging for treasure. The whole book of 2 Cor provides the best glimpse of suffering’s superiority. We always carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus, for ex, so that the life of Jesus might be repeated in our body. 4:10-12."

2. Book. The next brief quote is from John Fawcett’s edited book, Stress and Trauma Handbook: Strategies for Flourishing in Demanding Environments (2003—click here to see a book review). The quote is from the chapter by Cynthia Eriksson et al. It summarizes research on the adjustment of World Vision aid workers from over 30 countries:

"...for each of the mental health risk adjustment measures (depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and burnout) 30-50 percent of staff scored in the moderate to high-risk range. This is a significant number of people who are working and 'surviving' while experiencing considerable emotional distress. These staff may not be incapacitated by these symptoms presently, but we cannot deny the effects that depression, burnout, and PTSD can have on relationships, work, and personal health. An NGO's commitment to people includes the welfare of beneficiaries around the world, but it also includes the well-being of staff who commit their lives to serving and saving others." (p. 95)

3. Video. As we enter into a new decade we recommend watching the 13 minute United Nations Year in Review (located in the “See the Latest” section on the homepage of UN’s webcast site). This Review summarizes several major world challenges and the efforts of the United Nations in 2009. We see many disturbing events yet many encouraging examples of human courage and resiliency throughout this Review. Other examples of personal stories and international media reports are listed on the Media that Matters section of our Member Caravan website.

4. Tool. Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss. This resource is a creative and powerful way to help people work thorough grief. Tear Soup tells a simple story—with beautiful illustrations and trans-cultural relevance—of a women’s experience with deep loss in her life. Many important principles for dealing with loss are woven into the story. We highly recommend and regularly use this resource, available as a book and in DVD. Published by Grief Watch.

5. Music. Jon Foreman. The Cure for Pain. Jon Foreman is a 33 year old musician--singer, guitarist, songwriter. His music is creative, evocative, and varied. Struggles, yearnings, friends, and God are central themes which he effectively and often somewhat divergently weaves together in his lyrics. Listen to his above song (YouTube link) as well as to brief samples of his latest, superb CD: Limbs and Branches.

Trust God.
Stay the course.
May your tears strengthen you and others.

Reflection and Discussion
1. How salquatic are you---how “well” are you able to cry? What in life has influenced your ability to cry?

2. Describe a time when you wept (“tear flows of emotional saltwater”) or supported another person who was weeping.

3. List three of your main worries right now. Then rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of:
               Difficulty to resolve  Emotional pain  Impact on you/others
Worry 1:
Worry 2:
Worry 3:

If your worries could talk, what would they say to you, in a couple sentences? What would you say back to them, in a couple sentences?

4. What is Jon Foreman’s “cure for pain” in his song? (see link above, point 5)

5. Read the short and thoughtful piece linked below. It overviews the life of Jeremiah. List a couple ways that your life or the life of someone you know is like that of Jeremiah.

1 comment:

Barrett Kelley said...

Sunday I am presenting information about Haiti at church. I have struggled for words, cried tears of compassion and had many a speechless moment as I poured over story after story trying to figure out how to give voice to a people I will never meet and a country I have not been called to, yet several families in the church have loved ones on the ground in ministry as I write this and I feel compelled to do right by them in front of the members in a 5 minute time slot. The timing of this latest blog gave me a direction and the words I have been struggling to find. Thank you my friends.