Some seasons are richer and fuller than others. For me, this past couple of weeks well and truly falls into that category. We have hosted our Wesley Mission AGM and Annual Meeting events (you can watch a replay of an inspiring annual meeting – yes, you read that right!). We have begun work to form our next five-year strategic plan, including listening for the invaluable wisdom of our frontline staff in the Hunter Valley and Northern Rivers regions. And most importantly, for a few days, my senior leadership team spent time visiting with our amazing staff in Grafton, Maclean and Ballina. It was about time. Let me explain.
This trip to the Northern Rivers was originally planned for February earlier this year. The devastating flood events meant we postponed to May. More floods and flood recovery efforts meant we postponed again. Even a couple of weeks ago, with an East Coast Low pounding down more rain in the region, we were unsure if our third attempted visit would go ahead. Thankfully we were. And what a memorable few days it has been.
The Northern Rivers, typified by towns like Lismore, Ballina and Woodburn – has experienced so much trauma these last couple of years – so much grief, loss and ongoing hardship. Saying this, the word I would most readily associate with what I have experienced in talking with people in the region is ‘resilience’. This community, tired and worn down as it is, has a remarkable capacity to ‘bounce back’ again and again from setbacks and trauma most of us will not encounter in our lifetime.
I reckon resilience is one of the most underestimated attributes of a leader. Life can be tough, really tough, and the ability to persevere through setbacks and disappointments is critical, especially for a leader. The American Psychological Society defines resilience as ‘the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress… It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.’
The good news is that resilience is something that can both be learned and grown. Harvard researchers suggest that key to developing resilience is: having a network of supportive relationships, adaptive skill-building, having anchors in faith or cultural traditions, learning to master our emotions and the belief that we have some influence over our circumstances rather than simply being a victim of them. Most important on this list is having a network of supportive relationships. I am so grateful for my ‘happy few’ friends who stick with me through thick and thin, who have my back and who keep it real. Do you have a ‘happy few’ – people beyond your immediate family who do life with you at a deep level?
It should come as no surprise to know that my Christian faith has been and continues to be an anchor that empowers me to ‘bounce back’ from disappointments and setbacks, of which I have experienced a few. One of my favourite biblical characters, a man called David, provides me with a template on how it is possible to bounce back in even the most desperate of circumstances.
After returning home to discover his family, and those of his soldiers had been carried off by a foreign raiding party, David was overwhelmed with grief. Not only that, his men blamed him for their loss – and were threatening to stone him! Rather than spiral into paralysing depression, David ‘found strength in the Lord his God’ (1 Samuel 30:6). In another translation, it says he ‘encouraged himself in the Lord’. In the most desperate of circumstances, David chose to draw life-giving strength from the relationship with God he had developed over a long, long period of time. In enabling him to ‘bounce back’, God’s strength also empowered him to lead his men to free and restore their families, including his own.
Where and how do you encourage yourself when life is hard? From where do you draw your strength? I would love to hear from you. Just hit reply, and I will read and respond.
Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission