For those more youthful readers, the daily challenge of putting on socks might seem rather trivial, but for others—more ‘senior’ it represents a major accomplishment of agility and flexibility. Often, one foot is easier than the other. Some mornings, the required bends and stretches seem woefully inadequate. To accomplish the feat standing on one foot, represents a herculean triumph of balance or of the helpful support of a nearby wall. I am told by Lauryn, my ‘movement coach,’ that putting on socks is an excellent marker of physical resilience. It’s a rather low bar, I confess, but it turns out that flexibility is rather important! As she reminds me “motion is lotion!”
If we have learned anything through these past few years of pandemic chaos, it is that tomorrow is not likely the same as today, other than in the certainty that even the immediate future cannot be known. Much has been made of an important quality, resilience, defined in one dictionary as “the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” In another it is “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape—elasticity, flexibility, pliability, suppleness, springiness.”
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review recently suggested that “We can usefully define resilience as a company’s capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive in altered circumstances.” They go on to recognize that individual company resilience is impossible in isolation from the whole ecosystem of suppliers and customers. Their recommendations for success include; embrace adversity, look forwards, collaborate, focus on more than numbers, prize diversity, and expect change. In short, face forward, outwards, and lean in. Perhaps puzzling is that none of the recommendations of these business counsellors seems to have anything to do with money, much more to do with attitude and action.
In Matthew 7, Jesus contrasts two builders of a house. They have much in common—they both can build a house, both can hear Jesus’ teaching, both witness heavy rain, rising floodwaters, and strong winds, and both must live with the consequences of their choices. I’ve no doubt that they both employed excellent carpenters and the same building codes, yet their experiences are completely different. One house is lost and the other stands. The outcome is attributed to the quality of the foundations, rock and sand. All very obvious as a story, until we see how Jesus unpacks the meaning. The fundamental difference between the two builders is that one acts on what they have heard, “put these words of mine into practice”, Jesus says—and the other does not. To achieve resilience in the face of adversity seems mind-numbingly simple—put Christ’s words into practice!
I suspect that in many of our churches, under the threats of the times, we try to be smarter and resent adversity, remember wistfully, hunker down and hope for the best. Jesus and the Harvard Business Review seem to agree. Resilience comes from a change of both attitude and of action. Those two builders? Both were hearers, only one was a doer. Are we prepared to simply put into practice what Jesus says, or are we too busy on our more sophisticated strategy?