August 19, 2021
Reflection from Rev. Dana
There is nothing like rain to put a crimp in vacation plans. Thankfully on our recent time away there were only a few days when it rained or weather played a factor in our activities. When weather or anything else changes how we plan to spend our time, especially when we are on holidays, we have a choice how we will respond. We can focus on what we are not able to do or we can adapt, do something different, even see it as an opportunity to do something we might not have done otherwise. The choice we make can, and often does, influence how we feel. On the one hand when we focus on what we can’t do, we tend to get frustrated, angry, or even sad, which can be very draining, because all of our energy is negatively focused on something we cannot change. On the other hand, when we adapt to the situation, we are often happier, perhaps even energized by some new discoveries or new adventures that would not have happened if our plans had not been forced to change.
Life can be very similar, in that things do not always go the way we want or plan, and we have a choice how we will respond. Sometimes we are faced with something big, life-altering, like a diagnosis we really wish was not true, or an injury or accident that significantly affects us, or the death of a loved one or the sudden loss of a job or relationship. All of these have a significant impact on our life. Also, there are a myriad of small things that change the course of our day or our plans. Whether it is big or small, each time we have to make a choice how we will respond, because not responding is a choice with consequences as well. Ideally, we accept what is and adapt to the new reality whether that is rain on vacation, or some life-altering event. It is sometimes not easy, and sometimes we need time to adjust, especially the bigger the impact there is on our life. In the end though our choice and ability to adapt influences our life path.
The last year and a half called for continual adaptation. I wrote some months ago that it has felt like a roller coaster, and it is not over yet. The thing about roller coasters is they are not just about the ups and downs, the highs and lows, but the twists and turns. I don’t like roller coasters and I don’t like unexpected changes because I am a planner by nature, and I like to know when and how things are going to happen and when plans go awry, I get flustered. But there is so much that is out of our control, that I have had to learn a little more flexibility and adaptability; it makes life a little easier and more enjoyable. Just look at the wonderful, innovations and new ways of connecting that have come as a result of our need to adapt because of the pandemic. Many of these things would not have happened if not for the pandemic.
As I’ve noted though, it is always a choice whether we adapt or not. Those who tried to carry on as before, or to wait out the pandemic and restrictions, soon discovered this choice left them in a status of limbo, a holding pattern that often led to feeling of disconnection and even frustration with those who had pivoted. Whereas, those who embraced the new reality, who adapted by making the choice to engage with and to take advantage of the new innovations and offering are generally happier and feel more connected to the wider community and world around them. The perfect example of this comes from a cooking competition show I watched recently. It was a special tournament with special rules, including one round where chefs were forced to switch cooking stations in the middle of the round, sometimes more than once. Each time, they had a choice, adapt to the ingredients, preparations, and cooking that had happened at their new station, or try to execute their original plan regardless of the ingredients at their new station. The most successful person assessed the situation and adapted their plan. The other two struggled because one was determined do their original dish even through the ingredients at that point would not really work with that plan, and the other decided to start from scratch and throw away everything that been done. This show reminded me that being able to adapt is essential, but so is collaboration or building upon each other’s work and ideas, otherwise we are constantly in start-up mode as life continues to shift. If I apply that to the current pandemic, we need to be flexible enough to adapt as the situation changes, we need to know what is essential and what we are willing to give up or change, and we need to work together.
For me my faith and relationship with God has been foundational to being able to accept, adapt and move forward. Believing that I am not alone, that God is with me through the various twists and turns helps, and that God has given me a community to support me. My trust in God has been strengthened because I am constantly reminded, I cannot do this on my own, I need to rely on the strength and guidance of God and those around me (even when I stubbornly try to do it all myself). I have also been reminded that God does not require perfection, that I don’t have to know everything, be able to do everything and especially not do everything perfectly the first time. In every generation, God’s people have had to adapt to their surroundings, to the world around them, whether that was in the wilderness, the promised land, or the early church. It is our turn now, and as we embrace God’s help and direction, and with the strength of community around us we can adapt to thrive in this new world.