“Everything looks like a failure in the middle. Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work.”
– Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business Review 2009
Back in March, we thought we needed to hunker down for a few weeks or maybe even a few months to let the threat of a virus pass. But now that we have tipped past the Fourth of July and fall is staring us in the face, we realize that this pandemic is going to stretch into the foreseeable future. Suddenly we realize we are in the middle. And it feels like a mess. Will school start? Will I have health insurance? Will we be able to spend the holidays with our families?
Professor Kanter taught in the business school but she began her career as a sociologist studying communities such as the Amana, Shakers and Oneida and she discovered that those communities that succeeded had certain values or qualities like sacrifice, communion, transcendence. In her article written in the wake of the 2008 economic crises, she wrote that “Problems tempt people to give up…But stop the effort too soon and by definition it is a failure.”
Her words remind me so much of the words of scripture. On almost every page of scripture, someone or a group of folks are in the middle of a mess. Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Sarah, Ruth in the Old Testament faced tremendous hurdles in finding the wisdom and courage to do the hard work in the middle of societal problems and to hold on tight to God’s strength and love. The drama repeats in the New Testament with Jesus, his disciples and Paul and those who led the early Christian movement. People of faith have long experienced what the Harvard Business mind suggests, “Those who master change persevere and persist.”
In the book of Joshua, God’s people find themselves once again in the middle of what looks like a failure and they are instructed. “Choose this day whom you will serve.” They are invited to persist in the way of love and to persevere in serving God.
Grace and Peace,