Have you ever felt frustrated when circumstances changed? Maybe it was vacation plans. Maybe work plans. Maybe family circumstance changed. Whatever it was, you planned for things to be this way, but now they’re that way.
When things don’t go as planned, that might put us in a state of what we might call disequilibrium. We were planning for equilibrium, but now we’ve got disequilibrium.
Disequilibrium is definitely no fun. But is it a bad thing?
Is Disequilibrium a Bad thing?
The authors of Surfing the Edge of Chaos, a book about organizations as complex adaptive systems, argue that “prolonged equilibrium is a precursor to death.” They go on to say that “when a living system is in a state of equilibrium, it is less responsive to changes occurring around it.” Thus, the system ends up in a place of “maximum risk.”
This seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? How could a system be most in danger when it is in a state of equilibrium?
Here’s the thing. When a system experiences equilibrium, that system let’s its guard down. It gets comfortable, and when it is comfortable it becomes less able to respond when a change is introduced to the system. When a system experiences prolonged equilibrium, it is in great danger.
Disequilibrium Can Be a Gift
But when a system experiences disequilibrium, it has the opportunity to become stronger, more resilient, and healthier. When a system is in a state of disequilibrium, the system is forced to get creative. It has to think outside the box. It has to find new solutions. It has to get clear on what is most important and focus on that.
As challenging and even painful as disequilibrium might be, it can also be a gift.
Disequilibrium and the Church
Because the world has changed so dramatically over the past decades, the church in the West finds itself in a state of disequilibrium. As much as we’d like to go back to a state of equilibrium, I believe our current disequilibrium will make us stronger. It will give us a greater capacity for adapting to the changes happening around us. It will make us healthier and more resilient.
So, rather than resisting the disequilibrium we find ourselves in, let’s lean into it. Let’s embrace it. And let’s ask God to open our eyes and hearts to the gift that it is.