No Plan Survives Contact
This is the second post in the series Resilience as Practice for Kingdom Dwellers. Click here to view all posts in the series.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
And so one of the very most powerful ways to not end up being controlled by fear is to remain more curious than you are afraid.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
Change is the only constant in life.
— Benjamin Franklin
A wonderful trait of people of resilience is their ability to adapt quickly.
The resilient assess their environment quickly and accurately, and move towards constructive action persistently. They tend not to waste time on ‘woe-is-me’, shy away from change, or waste energy on things they cannot control. They behave like realistic optimists.
The resilient have learned that life does not owe them anything, and that it is to our advantage to pay attention and learn quickly. A foundational stance of curiosity and questions toward life is useful: ‘Oh, this was a failure? How interesting.’ ‘Oh, you think I am wrong? Please tell me more.’
This kind of attention, questioning, and complexity feed the cognitive functional flexibility and mental agility in us that is essential for resilience, and a common feature in survivor psychology. Rigid breaks; resilience learns, absorbs, shifts, adjusts.
Resilient people work through their emotional reactions, and keep moving forward in spite of shock, setback and adversity. They do not give up after the first failure. They do not expect immediate results. They presume to prevail in the end, and turn negative experiences into valuable events which, “in retrospect, they would not trade” (James Stockdale). In practice, much like military special forces are trained to do all over the world, the resilient have learned to take a step back; breathe, think, implement, assess, and adjust, under pressure.
The resilient are responsive, not reactive.
As God’s people, living securely inside of Romans 8:28, knowing that He works all things together for our ultimate good, we have a firm foundation on which to base this kind of resilience.
We are called to be hard-wearing farmers, equipped to persevere in the face of failure and disaster with a biblical view of the world. We do not give up on the harvest. We keep learning and showing up. We take captive every catastrophic thought, and preach the Gospel to ourselves. We trust when the story takes unexpected turns. We learn to face the world with good humour. As Theo used to say, with perverse enjoyment; “I’ve been told, Cheer up. Things could be worse. So I cheered up. And they sure were.”
At no point, in reality, does any of this become easy. Long term resilience means getting up and trying again, every day. CS Lewis affirmed,
Nothing will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up.
Not losing one’s temper and not giving it all up is a hallowed counter-act in the light of the tragedy and chaos in the world. When instead, we learn what we have to, we change. We become exceptional in our own way.
Adversity comes with its own gifts.
Do not be like the mule.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will advise you with My eye upon you.
Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
The sorrows of the wicked are many,
But the one who trusts in the Lord, goodness will surround them.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones.