My finger pokes into the bread dough, and the resilient flour and yeast mixture springs back. It is ready for the next step. The instructions say “Punch down,” and, while I wish for a less violent command, I use my fist to deflate the dough. Then, reshaped, it rises again in a new, less amorphous form. Even the time the baking sheet with its braided loaf slid to the floor, knocking the air out of it, the bread rose again.
How do we create that resiliency for ourselves? Bread rises because the leavening—whether yeast, baking powder, or soda—produces carbon dioxide bubbles which are held by networks of proteins; without the protein bonds, the gas would escape and the bread would lose its resilience. When we have been deflated, whether by difficulties in our own lives or by the enormity of the task of achieving justice for all, we can be buoyed up and our congregation can be reshaped, and both can rise if the truths of the principles we agree to are surrounded by human connections nurtured and deepened by the congregation.
The editorial “Race, Poverty and Medicine” in today’s electronic version of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that in trying to achieve health outcome equity, “One goal of medicine is to better understand resiliency and to support it so that all people can fulfill their potential and enjoy healthy and productive lives.”
T. Edward Nickens wrote in this month’s Our State that sacred places “help us understand where we are, and who we are, and why we are. They’re places where we can stand, feet rooted to the ground, and see the past and the present and the future in a single moment.”
Picture one of your sacred places.
Were you, like the author, imagining a sacred landscape? What if, in addition to that mountain vista or sandy shore or shading tree, you pictured this congregation as your sacred space? Is this not a place where, and people with whom, to “understand where we are, and who we are and why we are?” I believe the power of our covenant and the strength of our relationships will keep us resilient people, able to truly see our present and to work together to achieve the just, equitable and compassionate future we envision.