Gift for Adaptability
In the book of Genesis there is a story of a man named Noah. God spoke to him and instructed Noah to build a boat because he was going to flood the earth. God saved him and his family with a handful of animals. After the flood receded, before Noah laid a new world. Just as God had given the earth to Adam, now God was giving the earth to Noah. But Noah was not receiving a beautiful, green, vibrant and living world. He was receiving a desolate, humid, death-ridden, mouldy earth. (have you ever been through the fish aisle at the grocery store? gross)
After Noah offers a sacrifice God makes him and his descendants a promise,
As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. (Gen 8:11)
John Wesley commenting on this passage says…
See here how changeable the times are, and yet how unchangeable! The course of nature always changing. As it is with the times, so it is with the events of time, they are subject to vicissitudes, day and night, summer and winter counterchanged… it is constant in this inconsistency.
In other words, what God promises will never change is… change. It’s the classic cliche, “the only thing we can be sure of is change.”
Was Noah happy? We do not know but we can take a guess based on what happens next. Later the story tells us Noah got drunk and I am going to guess that he got drunk for the same reason most people get drunk; he was unhappy.
I’d be unhappy. Honestly, I do not know what I would do. It is unlikely that any of us will ever have to build a boat and have to survive in a post-apocalyptic world but that is not the point. If we look closely we can see that Noah’s story is our story.
For Noah, a chapter had finished and a new one was beginning. He might have, might have not, known it was for the better but either way he was unhappy. Like Noah, all of us have chapters in our lives that close. And when they do, especially if it is a chapter that we have known and loved for a long time, it can feel like the whole book is over. There is nothing left to do, or nothing left to live for. Scientist Dr. Rick Potts, Director of the Human Origins Program in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History believes that what has allowed our species, homo sapiens, to become the most dominant species is our remarkable ability to adapt. Of all other forms of life, humans are the world's most adaptable species. Animals can survive for a short while and adapt to certain climate changes but they cannot do it quite like we can (we took a monkey to space, the monkey did not take itself).
“[F]rom the first tools, changes in our body, the invention of fire, the increase in brain size and then the invention of specialized tools and ultimately the ability to take a story of something you saw outside and bring it inside a cave and paint it” represent a ratcheting up of adaptability.
Research is showing that the biggest adaptations humans have made happened during times of high climate change. The real driving force of our ability to adapt has been the instability of the weather. Each crises in human history placed an uncertainty that has pushed our species to create new kinds of tools and use more brainpower in order to survive.
We are the worlds most adaptable species because unlike most other living things we are more versatile, physically and mentally. We can live in rainforests, deserts, high mountains, ice, space and below water. The thing that distinguishes humans from all other species is our remarkable capacity to adapt to different situations. It’s not about our physical abilities but about the mind.
We have been created in such a way that allows us to adapt to new situations,
God has given us the grace of adaptability. The ability to be versatile in a constantly changing world.
For Noah, an old chapter had closed and now he and his family were faced with a grim new chapter. Often we hope that things will get better, but the sad truth is that in many occasions, like Noah, things do not get better.
In my time as a pastor I have learned that when counseling people the best thing to do is not help them get rid of their problem, but to help them co-exist with their problems. Some problems can't go away because they are based on circumstances outside of the person's control. You cannot bring back a dead person, or undo rape, infidelity, or a failed course in school. The only thing that can be done is to learn to co-exist with this reality in a way that you can make peace with it and take control over it rather than having it take control over you. In most cases, If things get better it’s not because the situation became better, but it’s because we become better. We adapt. That is how we were created. God has given us the grace of adaptability. As Dr.Potts observes in his research, it is in times of distress, uncertainty and climate (whether that means the weather or environment) that humans have made the most progress.
Autumn comes with lot’s of that. New school, new semester, new classes, new job, new difficulties. But we can thrive because we have been created adaptable. It’s not about our physical abilities but about the mind. And praise be to God that we are not alone in this journey. Just as new students adapt to their new schools with the help of teachers so does God help us and comfort us. For it is written, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Ps 46:1)
Each on of us have stories in our lives that reflect the fact that we are adaptable. We can see it in that the person we are today is not the same person we were a few years ago. We often underestimate our capacity to reinvent ourselves.
As one door closes we need to remember that we have the ability to open other doors. We have been graced with the ability to adapt. And grace is a gift. So I guess you could say we have been given the gift for adaptability.
Through His grace
We can become better.
We can adapt.
Joyce, Christopher. "Human History Shows a Gift for Adaptability." NPR. NPR, 30 July 2007. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.
Wesley, John. "Genesis 8 Commentary - Wesley's Explanatory Notes." Bible Study Tools. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.