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Adapting

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Adapting

On Christmas day, after slipping several times on ice, I slipped one last time and couldn't catch my balance. Down I went, and the first thing that made contact with the frozen ground was my left hand, fingers spread out to break my fall. I knew immediately that I was hurt, but with typical Kohlmann stubbornness, finished what I was doing before taking stock of my situation. A large lump had appeared on the back of my hand by then, and while I could move my fingers and wrist, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I was injured.

A trip to the emergency room and X-rays revealed a slight fracture, which I thought was good news. Until the doctor explained that I would still need to be splinted above my elbow, which would be followed by a cast for about six weeks. Not good news.

In the six days that have followed, I've had to adapt in more ways than I can count. Everything is harder to do, takes longer, and is more tiring. And everything requires a new approach, a new strategy, a new technique.

You may be familiar with the concepts of technical change and adaptive change. A technical change is one that has a technical solution: the light bulb is burned out; replace the lightbulb. An adaptive change is one that requires something deeper, a change in habit or perspective in order to move into a new reality. An example might be realizing that lightbulbs are burning out at a quick rate because you don't turn out the lights when you leave a room; the adaptive change is learning a new behavior in order to become accustomed to turning out the lights.

Much of what I'm dealing with now is really just technical change. Learning how to cover my cast in order to shower, how to type with one hand, how to drive with limited mobility in one arm. These are technical fixes that allow me to make it through each day, even if it's more challenging now.

I think the adaptive change is primarily in my attitude. Adopting the willingness to experiment with different ways of tackling each challenge as it presents itself, admitting to what I simply cannot do on my own, and working at keeping a positive outlook helps me approach all of the technical changes necessary with a little more aplomb. At least, I hope so.

Often in the world and in the church, we find ourselves in circumstances and situations beyond our control. We are forced to make changes in response, and these changes can be very technical in nature. Budgets may need to be revised, positions expanded or reduced, programs ended or begun, all technical responses to various circumstances. What if, while employing technical change, we also adopted the adaptive work of deciding that our emotional and spiritual responses would be open and expectant instead of fearful or anxious? What if how we choose to respond to change of any sort is as least as important as the eventual solutions and fixes we employ?

The adaptive change of choosing my outlook is hard work, and sometimes I just want to curl up on the couch and mope. But I know in the heart of who I am that the technical fixes will be much easier to swallow if I work on having a receptive spirit instead of a resentful one. And I also know that this lesson will serve me well as I continue to seek to be faithful in service to Christ's church.

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