The past two weeks have drawn me to focus on a theme of resilience. I engaged in “extensive research” (a euphemism for “I Googled it!”) and learned that Psychology Today defines resilience as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” The site goes on to summarise it like this: “In a nutshell, resilience can be defined as the ability — and tendency — to ‘bounce back.’”
Then yesterday in a conversation with a friend, he mentioned that a question he always asks in an interview is, “How do you cope with ambiguity?” It seems like a great question to ponder at the moment. Ambiguity covers doubtfulness, uncertainty, a lack of clarity. They certainly seem to be descriptors for this year.
Our resilience is being tested this year in ways we probably could not have ever imagined. Basic freedoms are now being restricted — we are not able to go where we want, when we want, just because we want to. We are being told to stay at home, stay away from others (especially if we or they are unwell); we have to wear face masks, work from home, and the list goes on. We cannot “do church” as we are accustomed to doing, and I know there are so many of our people who particularly miss the singing and the fellowship of being together. We have had to change the way we meet with each other, the way we work with each other, the way we share what’s going on with each other. And it seems like there’s very little of it that is ‘fun!’ Then, when things have started to look like they might be improving, along comes another ‘wave’ or other setback and we are ‘knocked down’ again.
This is where I see our increasing resilience: we keep finding new ways to be, to do, to live. We resiliently search for a future and determinedly put one foot in front of the other to move toward it. So much of this year feels like we have made no progress, but I encourage you to pause for a moment and think about it: there are new initiatives like online worship being offered in so many ways and so many places; we have managed to conduct meetings and gatherings via technology in ways that have continued to lead the Church and God’s people to life; we have also made deliberate decisions to be more connected at a time when disconnection due to physical distancing threatened to isolate us. And, what has perhaps inspired me most of all, we have become more aware and more determined to address the needs of the most marginalised people in our society.
I return to that question about ambiguity. We live in a time of change — we always have! Rarely is there anything predictable about change (or at least, that’s the way it seems to me). Change is an inevitable part of life, and without it we will stagnate, lose momentum, and become complacent. But managing, or coping through change, is usually difficult. So, I turned to a book called “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr Spencer Johnson. An allegorical story of four characters who must deal with change. One character finds a way to adapt as change happens and writes clues on the wall for the other characters to find and follow. It is almost a parable for our times… indeed, for all times. Change is not comfortable. Unpredictability is not comfortable. Uncertainty is not comfortable. So, we need to keep turning and re-turning to what holds us steady in the sea of change and ambiguity: our relationship with God.
I encourage you in the days ahead to make sure you carve out times in your calendar, amongst all the busyness with which we tend to fill our days, to sit in stillness with God, drawing on the peace, the hope, the love and the joy that God yearns to share with us. May these times with God feed your resilience, your inexpressible ability to bounce back, and help you face the change and ambiguity with confidence that you are not alone. God is with you. God is always with you
Blessings and peace,