Ideally, we would rise to the occasion and transform the adversity into an opportunity for greater happiness. We would use the adversity to deepen our own wisdom and compassion, and transform it into something we can embrace. We would chew it up, swallow, and digest it, and be closer to enlightenment as a result. That’s the ideal, as the Tibetans say: transform adversity into spiritual growth.
— B. Alan Wallace in Boundless Heart
41 years ago this month, I was in a “Contemporary Theology” class at Hendrix College, and it had a tremendous influence on my faith journey and the trajectory of choices I have made since then. (Certainly, one of the biggest being that I got to know fellow classmate Rebekah Miles, who I married the next year..)
When I read Paul Tillich’s The Dynamics of Faith for that class, I began to realize that my honest doubts and questions about God could actually deepen my faith and soulful journey. It was a great awakening for me. (I recommend Linda’s new Thursday Theologians class reading “Faith and Doubt” by Brian McLaren, because I think it will be exploring similar questions.)
A few days ago, the professor for that class, Dr. Jay McDaniel, texted me to ask if he could have my permission to post an article on his website about “transformation through adversity,” because it included a reference to my experience with cancer. When I met him in 1980, I was just 4 years from my last hospitalization at St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
I am humbled and honored that he wanted to share my story, and you can read it here. As my cousin Lenelle, who I lived with in Memphis for several years while being treated at St. Jude in the 1970s, likes to say, “we’re just walking each other home.”
This week marks a year since we began to realize we had to face a pandemic. We had only a surface awareness of how serious it would become. Now, as we see real signs of hope, this is a crucial time to awaken to grace and be more intentional about following Wisdom in the Spirit. As we are trying to “walk each other home,” how do we build trust and embrace the truth that we really are all in this together? For it is only with a deepening trust, finding faith through honest questions, that we will be able to prayerfully discern and imagine a “new normal” that is more rooted and grounded in God’s love and compassion.
As we learn to reflect on and live into the adversity that lies before us, each one of us has a common, yet unique story. Together we can discover, through being present to God’s love and grace, that we have eyes to see beyond our fears and ears to hear one another into healing and wholeness. We can grow deeper into a faith that helps us through any adversity, and transforms us into being a church of hope and healing wherever we are.
Dr. Len Delony
Associate Pastor of Spiritual Formation