We are now well into fall, and as the name of this season rightly describes, the leaves have begun falling from the trees. I always get a wistful feeling at this time of year. The hopefulness of spring when green buds emerged and grew, has now given way to colorful displays of yellow, orange, and red, which will soon die and fall to the ground leaving bare branches behind. Winter is on the horizon and with it will come colder, darker days.
Yet the prospect of changing seasons also comes with new opportunities to give us resilience: snuggling up with a warm drink and a good book by the fireplace; bundling up and making fresh tracks in newly fallen snow; cooking up a hearty meal of comfort food.
As this pandemic wears on, we need resilience for the days and months ahead. We, too, have moved through different seasons. After the initial shelter in place orders, many felt freer to socialize outside and even travel during the summer months. As fall approached, school and sports resumed even if not in the usual way. But now with winter around the corner we know we’ll be more confined inside again, trying to keep safe and well.
In an article I read recently, one of the suggestions for building resilience was to turn to the evergreen stories. I had never heard this term before, but apparently in journalism it’s used to distinguish current event stories that come and go, from evergreen stories that deal with ongoing issues that won’t be out of date anytime soon. A report on the results of a Monday night NFL game isn’t an evergreen story; an article about long term health issues for football players is.
Our Christian faith is full of evergreen stories about God, human nature, the presence of evil and our reason for hope. These are stories we can turn to in this time of uncertainty to give us spiritual grounding. When I read the first creation story in Genesis I am reminded that everything God makes is declared good, and we were created to live in community with one another.
When I read stories of Jesus feeding 5,000 hungry people and healing a woman ostracized for 12 years because of her bleeding, I am reminded that God cares about us as whole persons, desiring our physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being. When I read the passion story of Jesus’ suffering and death, I am reminded of God’s radical love for us, and from which we can never be separated. When I read of scared and fearful disciples transformed into bold and courageous apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am reminded that God can equip and use all of us to spread the good news.
Granted, I’m reading these stories a little differently right now given the pandemic. Since we can’t meet each other in person, I’m discovering new opportunities to be in community over Zoom discussions and meetings. I’m finding new ways of preaching the gospel through online worship. I’m reaching out more to check in and pray with people over the phone. Yet the result of remembering these evergreen stories from Scripture remains the same: they are anchors to keep me moored amidst the storm we’re in.
What are the evergreen stories that you turn to for comfort and hope? How have they helped you become resilient during trying times? I encourage you to use this opportunity to read and reflect the ones that keep you spiritually grounded, maybe even committing some passages to memory.
Gracious God, help us to see our own stories as part of the larger story of your unchanging love for us. Amen.
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Thanks for your post on “evergreen stories.” The term is also new to me. I guess I would say that my “evergreen stories” are the words and deeds of Jesus as they come to us in the 4 Gospels. Sure, some of them are more “evergreen” than others (I like especially his parables), but committing to a reading of all those words and deeds in the 3-year Sunday lectionary, which most of our congregations are using, gives me a spiritual grounding that I believe is on solid ground. I do not want to get too far away from those words and deeds. Your devotion, Gretchen, challenges me to think about getting back to a former practice that I have abandoned–memorizing the Sunday Gospel text each week. I just may start that up again with the first Sunday in Advent, coming soon enough. Would some of you hold me accountable for that practice?