There are some professional tree pruners outside and I can hear troublesome branches crashing several metres to the ground. They have cleared away items likely to be damaged, our curious cat is being monitored by the apprentice, and branches are falling in safe zones. All is under control in the hands of these professionals and I am grateful.
We like being in control, don’t we? Prosperous countries, such as ours, have become adept at controlling many aspects of our lives and our surrounding environment, so that we feel safe and secure. That was until a mysterious pandemic appeared and we suddenly realised we had lost control of so much that seemed certain. Much tragedy has unfolded and we know more awaits us – but we don’t know how much or for how long…
Loss of control, in itself, is not such a bad lesson for us to learn. As a person of strong faith, I aim to live with less control of my life! Whereas my tendency is to control, there is freedom in a ‘let go and let God’ mentality. An implicit trust in a beneficent God is required to live this way. Many decisions are still required, but there are others where leaving a space for what may eventuate, is releasing. For example, I have been completely dependent on people responding to everything I do as a Community Chaplain, from the beginning. Which people would engage in something so new and different was completely unknown. Living this way is tense at times, sometimes disappointing, sometimes elating. However, if I’ve done my best, with good intentions, I trust God to do the rest. I believe God is for us, has a far greater perspective and ultimately will prevail. Why would God not be faithful to me, given He loves me and I am trying to cooperate?
A further benefit of letting go of some reins is that we are no longer central to the outcome. Did I hear a sigh of relief? That’s how I feel. Handing control over to God, means we are no longer fully responsible – for better or for worse. No inflated pride and no crippling shame. Being important (involved, heard, respected), but not central, is a great place to be. I credit Graham Bond, long serving Pastor and CEO of Wayside Chapel with this wisdom.
Giving up control takes humility. We are not so important after all! From this place, we are better able to hear others and allow God some room to move. A previous mentor would say, ‘Lift empty hands to God’. When we have fulfilled our responsibilities, we can simply let go and trust it to the God who cares more than we do. Try it and feel the anxiety drain away…
As a young woman, it didn’t take much to spark my anger. Poking this bear was looking for trouble! Although assisting marginalised people was compelling, being amongst activists raised my anger level unhelpfully. I backed off, not wanting to become a constantly simmering pot of anger. Having dealt with some underlying issues, I am much calmer these days. But I also recognise that controlled anger can be well-utilised to call for justice.
Nevertheless, I have re-engaged with social justice activists with trepidation. Happily, I have found a group who are respectful and intelligent in their approach: my local Sydney Alliance group. Initially, we build relationships with others concerned for the common good of those around them. It’s enriching to meet these compassionate people, intent on making a positive difference for others. There is encouragement in working together. We are guided by experienced Sydney Alliance leaders to formulate an informed approach, based on our combined strengths and connections. No specific agendas are forced upon us and we agree on one cause which is a high priority for us all. Recently, we heard personal stories of the huge dilemma of international students who lost their jobs and the desperate circumstances which resulted. After raising our collective voice to ask for support for them during COVID-19 restrictions, we thanked those responsible for providing an allowance to them. Recently we became aware of many local ‘at risk’ youth, and how the local organisation Streetwork is having a very positive impact upon them. We are currently strategising how to best support 'Streetwork' to multiply its impact.
If you would like to be peacefully proactive and productive, here is an opportunity to gain some skills to write to, and meet with, your local State or Federal MP. (This enables them to do their job well in representing us, their constituents.) Lane Cove Uniting Church has organised an online training session with Uniting’s Advocacy Team. Everyone is welcome:
I appreciate these approaches where expertise and information are shared, enabling us to be productive and efficient together. I am blessed to have these new people in my life too. It’s energising to be part of an eclectic team, making a difference for people who really need an advocate, simply by dedicating an hour or two a month to their cause. Is it something you would like to do too? Click on one of the bold, underlined links to find out more.
What gives us resilience? That is, the strength to recover from life’s shocks and obstacles and keep going in confident hope?
As I was reflecting on this topic, I recalled a short sentence I’d heard years ago on ABC radio. I think it was a psychiatrist who said, ‘Resilience comes from having someone to love, someone to love you, something to do and something to hope for.’
I think that sums the matter up quite well, but there’s some further examination we could do to understand it more fully.
It seems our resilience grows out of many factors including:
In the light of what I have just outlined, I have to say I am blessed with a caring husband and family. With my sons I still share caring, trusting relationships. I have lots of other people to care about: my Uniting Church friends, members of several seniors’ groups; and old friends and relatives I don’t see often but do care for. With increasing age has come an increasing awareness of the importance of being supported by others and giving support in return to strengthen my capacity to cope with life’s difficulties.
As for something to do, I have no trouble finding worthwhile activities. Being part of this group and getting to know you and being interested in you is a start. Pastoral care for my church is another satisfying outreach. Sharing ideas, writing, thinking, meditating, writing prayers, reading, using my computer to communicate are all worthwhile to me. I have other satisfying domestic and leisure activities as well.
Finally, something to hope for…. In my early adult years, I had all the usual hopes one had as a young wife and mother in our society of the 1960’s - a happy family, a secure home, a garden, social life, studying for my degree and eventually, satisfying employment - but when my marriage relationship broke down, I met one upheaval after another. Shortly after our divorce, my former husband died of a heart attack at 44. That was the beginning of big problems - fatherless teenage sons, much weakened health, rejection by former family and friends and the necessity of building a whole new life in a hurry. In desperation, I went to my local church - and I hadn’t been a church member since my teen years - to see if I could find solace and new meaning there. If I couldn’t, then I would try psychiatry to help get myself together.
But at that point, I was ready to hear the Gospel with adult understanding. With tears of grief mixed with hope, I kept going. I got into Bible study and prayer groups. I started a home group. My minister suggested I think of ministry for myself. I was finally ordained. In the Gospel story of God with us and the life we can lead following the path of Jesus - I now placed my faith and trust.
Thus, it’s on these foundations of love shared, work to do and hope for the future that any resilience I have rests. I fail to meet every single challenge that comes my way, but I’m now 81 and so far, so good . . .
Even as a pre-schooler I wanted to go to Sunday School to be like my big brother. They kindly let me in before I was 5 and I loved it from the beginning. The Sunday School teachers were always kind to me, and I was a keen student. Although my parents didn’t go to Church, I was unaware of their disbelief, as their principles were largely Christian. They wanted ours to be too – so long as we didn’t take it too far! That part didn’t go according to their plan because God intervened supernaturally when I was about 10. It was a life-changing experience and nobody has ever been able to convince me that it wasn’t real.
Hence, for most of my life, I have attended various churches on Sunday morning. I have enjoyed being part of these communities who are united by the underlying story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. There is a unifying hope and challenge in trying to live out principles modelled by Jesus 2000 years ago. It’s not easy interpreting his actions for today’s world, so the Church is somewhat dependent on those who have stepped up their commitment, undertaken study of the Bible and are able to transmit its teachings to others in meaningful ways. Surrounding this teaching are practices of honouring God together and interacting graciously with the rest of the community. This has become a finely developed art over 2000 years! Do I miss this tradition? Yes – but not as much as I used to.
Whereas I loved Sunday worship gatherings for many years, my growing concern for those who are effectively ‘locked out’ became my over-riding concern. Most churches will warmly welcome newcomers, but if people have never been to church, or experienced it badly in the past, they are unlikely to go in (maybe on the arm of a trusted friend). Hence, I instigate various ways to allow people to taste the treasures of Christianity gently. (See my previous 2 blogs). Lane Cove Uniting Church usually run a great Sunday worship service and enable me to go out into the community to be with people in their environment. The people who come regularly to these gatherings have formed communities too, which I find satisfy that relational worship need in me. Having different options available is ideal, as faithful people who love the time-honoured traditions of Church continue in that way, while those who don’t, have some options too.
Christian faith is very rich and sustaining, offering extraordinary wisdom for those who care to delve. I just don’t want anyone to miss out!
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." The Bible, John 10:10 (NIV).
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.