Resilience amid overwhelming chaos

At the APCE conference, Rev. Michelle Thomas Bush led a workshop entitled “Resilience Skills to Help Young People Deal With Grief.”


M.A.C.E./M.Div. student Annie Franklin shares her reflections on attending the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) 2017 Annual Event in Denver, Colorado.

This year’s Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators Annual Event left me thinking two things: chaos and resilience. With a theme “God with us in the Chaos,” we explored how God is with us when things are busy, traumatic, overwhelming, and of course chaotic. I kept thinking about the beautiful things that emerge out of chaos and how the church, time and again, resiliently emerges out of chaos as a place of love, hope, and peace.

The first workshop I went to was Rev. Michelle Thomas Bush’s workshop entitled “Resilience Skills to Help Young People Deal With Grief.” While the workshop was certainly focused on young people, I think the skills could be applied to all ages as we all will encounter some sort of grief in our lifetime whether it is the death of a close friend or the end of a close friendship. Michelle presented the skills as PRESS: positive emotion, relationships, engagement, seek, and serve. She believed youth pastors should encourage youth to find a positive emotion and remember they can control creating it. For example, in the workshop, we were asked to name three good things that happened to us today. Then, we were asked what we ourselves did to make those things happen. Not only did this activity force us to name good things, but it required us to discover our role in making them happen and give us the feeling that we can control something good in the midst of chaos when it often seems like we can’t control anything. Next, in resilience skills, we thought about the relationships that are formed at church and how it is so important to nurture them so that in times of chaos and trauma they are strong and ready to be Sought out. Finally, skills to be resilient come from engagement and service. Youth can be more resilient when they are involved in things other than schools like community service that is done without seeking a reward.

I think we as adults can use these same skills in the midst of our own chaos. In a world that moves fast and is often full of constant negative news, I often feel like the disciples who were on the boat with Jesus in the storm waiting for him to come calm it. I forget that I can be resilient too. Now that I am home from APCE and there is reading to complete, papers to write, homework to do, CPE to apply for, a world to pray for, and a wedding to plan, the chaos seems overwhelming again. But I keep thinking about this resilience thing, and how resilient God’s people are through the ages. With an overwhelmingly long to-do list in front of me, I name off three things that have made me happy today and that God in the chaos made those three small things happen, proving that God for sure is with us when we are in the midst of chaos.