What's Tony Thinking

Show the Hell Up Right Now


The Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, posted a prayer on Sunday morning which I thought was pretty great. Maybe it will speak to you too. Here it is, in part:

“A lot of us are grieving. Actually, all of us are grieving: lost friends, lost kin, lost homes, lost income, lost connection to others, lost health. Help us not also lose hope. We can lose a lot and still survive, but not that.

“A lot of us are so angry. Angry that our inherent worth and dignity seems up for debate by those who have never had their worth and dignity questioned in courts of law. Angry that love of power seems to trump love of neighbor. Repurpose our anger into righteous action, Lord.

“(Personal note: My fear is turning to anger and I am afraid that my anger can turn so easily to hate and hate is the thing I say I am against. Turn me away from hate. My heart can’t take that kind of brittleness because I need it to give and to receive love. Remind me that my heart is spoken for.)

“A lot of us are ashamed of how numb we feel, but honestly we’ve run out of emotional bandwidth and the system needs to re-boot before it comes back on-line. Give us rest and self-compassion.

“A lot of us are joyous and feel like we have to shield that joy from others, lest it seem like we are callous toward those who are hurting. Help us see and celebrate what good there is in our lives and the lives of those around us.

“I don’t think you created us to be able to metabolize such a constant stream of bad news everyday, Lord. But I do know that you created us to metabolize cookies. And for that I give you thanks and praise. They are helping. But they are not enough.

“So if you could show the hell up right now, that would be great. And if you are already showing up, give us new eyes to notice you. Amen.”

In the “personal note” part she echoes a theme from my post of last week, “Our Trump Addiction.” Faced with the lying, hypocrisy and evil-doing of The Leader and his enablers, it is hard not to hate. I’m having a hard time not hating on Mitch McConnell for one. But letting our fear turn to hate is a victory for the evil one. Our hearts, as NBZ, puts it “are already spoken for.”

Resilience. Means getting though the hard stuff, not being totally undone by it. Means after being stretched all out of whack bouncing back into shape.

I was not surprised that the United Church of Canada clergy with whom I spend two days later this week identified “resilience” as a topic for our conversation.

I’ve had a theory that when we start talking about something a whole lot, it means that it’s in short supply. I’m wondering if that’s the case for “resilience,” as one can hardly read anything in the self-care and well-being genre these days without encountering the word “resilience.”

Which brings up a kind of spiky little essay on that topic that I saw several weeks back. The author said, sure, resilience is important, a great thing and all that. But is there a somewhat darker side to our increasingly invocations of resilience? Writer Jami Attenberg asks, “Is Resilience Over-Rated?” She wants people to be proud of themselves for being resilient, but she doesn’t want it to be our only option.

In New Orleans, where Attenberg lives, mention of “resilience” got some push-back. Here’s Attenberg:

“Here in New Orleans, for example, where I am a relative newcomer, my friends who are longtime residents and who survived Hurricane Katrina greet the word “resilience” with a fiery disdain. This is a city where people have been called resilient for years, and so many I talk to just seem exhausted by it.

“’It puts the onus on the person to fix the things that should be a civic priority,’ said Anne Gisleson, a friend and a native New Orleanian.

“When the levees broke and the city flooded, she was one month pregnant, newly married and learning how to be a parent to a 6-year-old stepson. Suddenly she also had to figure out how to best participate in the rebuilding of the city alongside her neighbors, and reopen the school where she worked. So many people were working nonstop to fix things, she told me. Feeding each other, making street signs, clearing debris. ‘There’s an expectation that we’re supposed to bounce back and that’s the American way,’ she said. ‘And it takes the power structures off the hook.'”

Every virtue, someone observed long ago, if pushed too far and too single-mindedly, flips over and become a vice. Calls for greater resilience that overlook questions of justice and the erosion of the institutions of our public and common life, those that help buffer people in crisis, could be an instance of the virtue of resilience becoming a vice.

Theologically, NBZ doesn’t put it all  on us and our need for resilience. To God she prays, “So if you could show the hell right now, that would be great.” Sometimes you just gotta call on God to be God. Amen.


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