In her book, Re-enchanting the Earth: Why AI Needs Religion (which we’re studying in a special Sunday school class this month), Ilia Delio has this to say about how complex systems such as organisms or ecosystems flourish:

“ …complex dynamical systems theory teaches that survival is a function of resilience, not stability. A system that is very resilient can have very low stability; that is, it may fluctuate greatly but still survive…Contrary to popular ideas, a system with high stability may not endure because any change or disturbance will destroy it.”

She goes on to say that resilience is best achieved through “dynamical connectivity”–the more diverse qualities the system displays, the “richer” its relations. The richer its relations, the more protected it is from disturbance or danger.

She notes all of this to make a case that the essence of creation is “relational wholeness;” that, fundamentally, life is a web of interconnectivity, and the more we are aware of this the more likely we are to thrive.

As we noted last week during worship for Trinity Sunday, in this way human and biological life mirror the life of God—God who we proclaim is both One and With, defined by relationship.

But this insight about complex systems strikes me as helpful to remember about so many parts of our life—so many parts that we are still trying to put back together since the pandemic. Communal life is nothing if not a complex dynamical system, and it is most successful when we appreciate just how thick the web of connectivity is. And not just wider communities, but families, and, of course, congregations. It is intuitive for us to seek stability in these different relationships and systems. 

We often joke in our home that when everything is running as it should—no random school holidays or sick days, no unexpected long hours at work or family visiting from out of town, no after school activities or painfully long bedtime routines, no unexpected expenses or long weekends—when we don’t have any of that, our rhythm as a family works really well.

The problem is that those weeks never seem to come! Stability feels like a pretty lofty goal for us right now. But resilience—that seems like something we can manage.

I wonder how it would shift our thinking with our families or schools or communities or even within our congregation, if we started measuring our health by a standard of resilience instead of stability? And beyond that, how would we restructure things to achieve resilience as opposed to stability? 

Would we spend more time strengthening relationships, which is the thick web that holds us together when the wind changes? 

Would we stop stressing when things don’t go according to plan—remembering that they rarely do? 

Would we celebrate more as we look around and see that life may not look how it used to, but—my goodness—how it persists, and with beauty?



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