A Lesson from Babyville
In the midst of the craziness of life with a newborn, one of the phrases Zoe & I often come back to is ‘every day is a stage’.
Welcome to my thought process…
Oh, hurrah, the little one was only up for a feed once last night… oh, and then the following night he’s awake three times for nearly an hour each time… just when we think he’s getting into a rhythm, suddenly everything changes!
Every day is a stage.
It’s a helpful nudge for our expectations as parents not to be unrealistic, and not to get discouraged when one day is so different to the next.
The COVID Landscape
And as we enter a second lockdown here in the UK, this phrase has kept coming to mind. This is the COVID landscape and it often feels that ‘every day is a stage’.
Many have noted that one of the best ways of capturing this landscape is the acronym VUCA: Volatile, Uncertainty; Complexity; Ambiguity.
The term became popular through the US military in the early 1990s, in response to the collapse of the USSR and the fact there was now a much more complex ‘threat’.
In every sphere of life at the moment, we face volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – and life for churches and church leaders is no exception.
Welcome to the Hebel World
Of course, we all know this is what life can be like. But life feels particularly ‘like’ it at the moment!
In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, the writer repeatedly uses the Hebrew word ‘hebel’ – often translated as meaningless, but I think better translated as vapour or vanity. Rather than suggesting life has no meaning, it captures that sense of life being ungraspable and fleeting. Part of why we want to grasp life is because it is meaningful, and yet it is vapour. Plans, dreams, schedules.
Life is vapour. A Saturday night announcement from Downing Street and suddenly our plans for the following weekend have to shift. Who knows what Christmas will look like? Who knows what 2021 will be like?
But what are we hoping will bring relief? More certainty? A Government plan? I saw this tweet from pastor Andy Prime this week, which picks up on another repeated phrase from Ecclesiastes and reminds us where to look:
2020 is not our enemy, or the problem.
2021 is not our saviour, or the solution.
This is 'life under the sun.'
— ᴀɴᴅʏ ᴘʀɪᴍᴇ (@revandyprime) November 4, 2020
Rather than just hoping things ‘go back to normal’, some have argued that the best response to living in a VUCA world is actually an alternative ‘VUCA’ – and I’ve found this a helpful starting point in my own thoughts:
Respond to Volatility with Vision: painting a picture of the future that isn’t dependent on certainties…
Respond to Uncertainty with Understanding: reflect on the context and empathise and embrace reactions, after all we’re all feeling the fragility…
Respond to Complexity with Clarity (simplicity): discerning/communicating what we are about and what counts…
Respond to Ambiguity with Agility: facilitate innovation and build a culture of resilience…
If Every Day Is A Stage, Plan For Tomorrow
Of course, in all of this we still need to make plans – and yet to make them prayerfully and hold them lightly. James Lawrence, Leadership Principal for CPAS, has a helpful nugget of wisdom here for moving forwards:
“Think long-term … prepare medium-term … plan short-term”
I find that a helpful way of framing time, but also of framing my expectation levels and where I spend my energy.
After all, every day is a stage.
How are you finding the fragility? What has helped you take steps forward? How could the craziness of a newborn baby frame your perspective at the moment?