“The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; / He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, / and He will be the stability of your times, / abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; / the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.”Isaiah 33:5-6
“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”2 Peter 3:16b-18 (Speaking of St. Paul’s letters to the early church.)
If ever we have felt unstable, it’s now: this election day, this week, this year. Earlier this year, I began studying the book of Isaiah and “the stability of your times” has been ringing in my ears ever since. (A very timely book for this epoch, btw….) Earlier this week, a neuroscience education organization I follow posted this on Instagram: “Stability is a Perception.” The full post is worth a read, but here are some highlights:
“Stability” is just a made up word that describes the integration of many different control strategies necessary to allow your body to handle loads/forces efficiently as it moves through a dynamic environment. The capacity of these different control strategies to work together and handle stress is a reflection of your “stability.” […] A “stable” system is a system that can remain within a desired state. A state that allows for a sharing of load amongst many tissues, structures, and systems. […] A person might be “stable” in a clinical or gym setting, but when they step out into the uncertainty of the real world, that might change. Their movement will change. Their brain will need to trust that your system can express certain qualities to handle those uncertainties. If not, then more help is needed from the higher parts of the brain for protection, which is energy expensive.Integrated Kinetic Neurology
In Isaiah, the Hebrew word translated as “stability” in the ESV is ʼĕmûwnâh, and carries such meanings as “firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness, security, truth.” In 2 Peter, the Greek word is stērigmós, indicating a “firm condition, steadfastness (of mind), standing still.”
While connotations of “firmness” and “standing still” make stability sound like frozen immobility, we know from neuroscience and the experience of our own human bodies that stability for a living creature is actually more like a continual reckoning with ongoing and varied outside forces. We are not rocks, but flesh, and are continually in motion even when “standing still.” 2 Peter reminds us that stability is something that must be practiced, as threats of false teaching and the instability of others chip away at the steadfastness of our faith. Isaiah goes further, showing us that the source of our stability is God himself, who has all the wisdom, salvation, and knowledge we need to keep our anchor.
Perhaps, rather than thinking about stability as hunkering down in defense against trouble, we can begin to think of ourselves as kelp forests. Kelp anchors itself to the rock and, because of its softness and strength, is able to sway with the tide but not be torn or crushed by it. By doing so, it regenerates the ocean around it, providing shelter for smaller creatures and oxygen, nutrients, and shade for all in its company. It just can’t kelp it. 🙂