• The New Normal

  • By Susanna Fleming

  • The New Normal

    The New Normal. Unprecedented. Pivot. Resting Zoom Face. Just typing these words makes me cringe. We may have been short on a lot of things in 2020 (social interaction and toilet paper being prime examples), but pandemic-reminiscent jargon has been plentiful. This is just a hunch, but it seems like most of us would be happy to never have to hear these overused words and phrases ever again.

    There is one word, however, that I would like to keep around from the 2020 hotlist: Resilience. First of all, that word just rolls right off of the tongue. You have to admit – resilience is one phonetically pleasing combination of consonants and vowels. But on a more serious note, psychologists and thought leaders have been throwing this word around a lot lately. Resilience is the not-so-secret sauce that has gotten us through the chaos of 2020. It is resilience that helps people navigate the countless curveballs and unexpected adversity that life brings. And for disciples of Jesus, especially, resilience is the definitive characteristic we need to run the race of life all the way to the finish line (Hebrews 12:1).

    In the book Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock use the phrase “resilient disciples” to describe Christians who live out a fully vibrant and fully orthodox faith despite cultural changes and pressures. Significantly, this group only makes up only 10 percent of nominal Christians in the United States, with other Christians being described as either lapsed Christians, ex-Christians, or habitual churchgoers.

    Why do all of these categories and data points matter? Whether in the chaos of 2020 or in life’s future twists and turns, the Bible guarantees that Christians will face disappointments. And hardships. And trials. And as Christianity continues to become a minority faith in the United States – appearing increasingly uncouth, immoral, and even dangerous in the eyes of mainstream culture – people who want to wholeheartedly follow Jesus need a whole lot of resilience.

    We need to be resilient disciples if we are going to have any chance of being faithful followers of Jesus. We can’t just casually engage in religious traditions or pick and choose our beliefs from the spiritual-but-not-religious buffet that our surrounding culture deems safe. We must take up our cross and follow Jesus, allowing spiritual disciplines to serve as funnels of grace in our lives. That’s right, discipline. Definitely not a 21st century buzz word.

    But in the wise words of Henri Nouwen, “discipline is the other side of discipleship”. Trying to be a resilient disciple of Jesus without intentionally practicing and cultivating the ways of Jesus is kind of like trying to run a marathon without training. Resilience is not just a mental state for us to employ in hard times. In the context of spirituality, resilience is a characteristic that we cultivate over time as we participate daily in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. As we do simple things such as spending time with God, praying with community, practicing gratitude when we don’t feel like it, etc., we slowly but surely start to look more like Jesus. And Jesus, my friends, is the most resilient person I know.

    Wherever you are today – whether you are reading these words in 2020 or 20 years from now – I want to encourage you to pause. Engage your heart and imagination with God. Consider what disciplines you may need to incorporate into you daily and weekly rhythms. Jesus’ path is the path of life, and he can help us develop the resilience we need to travel it well.

    By Susanna Fleming