Nature can be a wonderful teacher to the discerning and perceptive eye. A penguin colony, in some of the harshest conditions, function together in a way that nurtures and sustains the individual bird. Every bird spends their time on the outside, providing protection and shelter for the ones who end up, momentarily in the middle. They then slowly rotate in their unique penquin shuffle, changing places; those in the middle now finding themselves on the outer edge providing the much needed protection.
Our very good friend, Julia Grace, shared this illustration as an example of how we all cycle in and out of various states of mental wellbeing, times when our need for support and care is higher than other times.
The response of the church to most afflictions in life has been to pray it away, however Julia’s personal experience in dealing with her own mental wellbeing is that prayer is only one wall that keeps the roof from falling in on you. The other walls in life represent some more practical means of navigating and managing these phases well.
As penquins need the entire colony to survive an Antarctic winter, isolation is a huge barrier to recovering from mental unwellness. While it takes courage for someone to share their personal afflictions, it also requires grace, mercy, care and love of varying and effective degrees and styles to help people heal.
This can manifest itself in so many ways but is facilitated best within the context of community. As people can often irritate and annoy us, sharing life together does have it’s struggles, yet Julia’s contribution to our conversation on Whanaungatanga was a beautiful reminder of the imperitive value that interconnectedness has on our journey of healing.
As a community, it’s a constant challenge to provide appropriate spaces that facilitate a safe environment where openness and vulnerability can flourish. As individuals within that community, it is a challenge to identify the season we are in and the courage and strength to respond appropriately; whether it’s to share our own load, or help carry someone's burden.