Spiritual resilience: Strengthening the human "within"

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Jason Botts
  • 341st Missile Wing deputy wing chaplain
Sometimes it's easier to convey a truth with a word picture, a parable that is thrown down alongside a reality making it easier to grasp. Spirituality and spiritual resilience are "built-fit" for this.  So here's my attempt to turn the "landing-light" on this critical component of lives.  Let's start with open ocean racing. Have you seen the yachts that race around the globe in the America's Cup? They are incredible marvels of engineering built to speed across the high seas.  The average boat has 17 sails on board, needs 10 highly-trained crew members, is 70 feet long and can reach speeds over 45 mph. Crews must exert great effort steering and hoisting sails, and must be skilled at navigation, weather, and reading ocean currents. There is however a factor in the sailing equation that neither the boat nor the crew can supply: the wind. This factor is the fundamental energy essential for the boat to move at all (not to mention reaching its maximum performance). Though crews can't control or see the wind they take advantage of its effects by positioning the boat correctly and using optimum sail configurations to harness its power.

Spiritual resilience is similar to catching the power of the wind. We can't see spiritual realities but we can position ourselves to benefit from their powerful effects. Chaplains call this positioning spiritual formation. Spiritual formation involves learning various practices,such as meditation, silence, solitude and celebration, that enable a person to do what can't do by willpower alone. These practices have thousands of years of data showing efficacy. Even modern science has validated what the ancients knew all along, that we must "keep vigilant watch over our heart (the human "within") because that is where life starts." Like the racing yacht, when we develop spiritual competence (learning how to catch the powerful effects of spiritual reality) we become stronger within. And when we're stronger within, we're much more likely to handle the challenges of life with poise and wisdom.
So what exactly is this human "within"? Let's look at it this way. Suppose you were to open me up and look inside, would you find me? Certainly you would see my physical body but what about my mind, my thoughts, my will and my feelings; would you see them? You wouldn't, but common sense tells us those non-physical realities are a necessary part of us.  Without getting technical it seems to me that there is more to us than just our bodies and brains.  And that this "more" that we can't see, yet is there, is simply an aspect of human life that can be labeled "spiritual." It's a necessary part of our being irrespective of one's beliefs.

Let's connect the two halves of this mission plan for spiritual resilience.  First, there's the "invisible essential," like the wind that animates a sail. Although we can't see spiritual reality per se, we can leverage its effects by learning to be spiritually competent. Second, there is the common sense claim that people are spiritual. There is a part of us that is truly "us" yet can't be touched, seen or felt per se. Adding these two halves can produce a powerful outcome. As we "set our sails" to catch this "wind" we embark on a personal voyage and our lives begin to change from the inside out. Our thoughts, our wills, our desires and feelings (the human "within") begin a transformation process. As our "within" re-forms we find that our "outside" naturally changes. Now spiritual resilience begins to emerge. We "see" it in the appearance of greater composure, perspective and wisdom welcoming the waves of pressure and stress that pound the shoreline of our lives every day.

The chapel teams at our mighty 120th Airlift Wing and 341st Missile Wing stand ready to help you learn the art and science of spiritual resilience. You can contact us at 731-3181 at Malmstrom and 791-0300 at the 120th AW.