In 1996, the “New Choluteca Bridge” (also known as the Bridge of the Rising Sun as a nod to the Japanese company that designed and constructed it) was built and in 1998 it opened for use in Choluteca, Honduras.
In October of 1998, Hurricane Mitch hit the region causing widespread flooding and devastation. The rising waters took out the access roads either side of the bridge but the bridge remained intact. However, when the flooding subsided it became evident that the river had carved a new path.
They were left with a bridge in near perfect condition that no longer had a function. The roads had disappeared and the river had moved!
I wonder if this isn’t a powerful metaphor for the era we have been (and are still) navigating. A season of incredible change and disruption to the usual flow of work, ministry, and life in unpredicted and varied ways. Although we would be right in hesitating to say that the hurricane has passed and the flood waters have completely receded, we are finding ourselves somewhat on the other side and facing a very changed landscape.
The river has moved!
WHERE IS YOUR RIVER?
It behoves us all, as individuals, families, leaderships and organisations to step back and do some assessing. Where is your river? Has it moved? Where was it? Where is it going now? What of the impact on the surrounding landscape? (I’m told the old river bed would likely now be considered more of a wetland rather than dry land or the usual terrain of river banks.) Where is the high land, the dry land, the firm land? What got washed away in the flood? What is now at the bottom of the newly directed river?
What has changed?
Working with a colleague recently he remarked “2022 won’t just be the 2020 we planned to have”. As we open up and return to some sort of new normal, in our rush to “go back” we can be deceived into thinking that we’ve just been on pause these past months and everything is waiting where it was when we left it. It’s not true. Many things have changed. You have changed, the community has changed (eg, we know differently about what matters to people in society), our engagement with technology has altered, our habits and routines have radically changed, our elderly may have aged inordinately during this time, the socialisation and development of our young people has been disrupted, social confidence has shifted, new patterns of behaviour have emerged (hello church in your jarmies!!!), your staff team might have shifted working hours and onsite routines, and I could go on indefinitely. No doubt you could add to this list from your own experience. Things have changed. It’s important we identify and appropriately acknowledge that reality. We’ll need to grieve some losses and face some truths. Pretending or hoping the river is still the same will get us nowhere.
WHAT’S THE STATE OF THE BRIDGE?
In the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, the bridge was determined to be almost completely unaffected. Were there still roads accessing it, engineers would have had no problem declaring it fit for traffic. There’s nothing wrong with the bridge, other than the glaring reality that it’s not “bridging” anything anymore! It serves no purpose. Great bridge. Excellent feat of construction. And now obsolete.
In recognising the changes that have taken place in your world it’s inevitable that some of your systems and processes are no longer fit for purpose. Before we jump to defending them, remember, there was nothing wrong with the bridge – it just didn’t have a river under it anymore. We don’t have to disagree with previous practices, we don’t have to ‘backflip’ or contradict ourselves, we don’t need to undermine our credibility or integrity, we don’t have to criticise or pick apart past methods – we purely need to acknowledge that the landscape is different and ask what it requires of us.
What does a new river path require of us?
Could we relocate the bridge? Do our previous systems still work they just need to shift over a bit? Or do we need a new kind of bridge for new conditions?
Can we apply the same principles of design that were used for the old bridge? Or do we need to explore new engineering, new types of footings, new construction methods, different materials?
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?
If things have shifted, as we know they have for everyone to some degree, and the old structures, old ways, old thinking aren’t going to cut it for moving forward into the future. What do we need to do?
Business leadership author, Marshall Goldsmith, puts it this way in the title of his book “What got you here won’t get you there.” New horizons, new frontiers, new experiences require new methodology, thinking and practice. What has served you in the past may not serve you so well in the future. If the ways you – or WE if we’re thinking more corporately or collectively – have been thinking, acting, believing, preparing and functioning were attached to the ‘old way’ of life then those behaviours and attitudes might need adjusting.
How has the ‘river moved’ in your life, family, organisation, work, or ministry?
What might you need to do differently as a result?