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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Synergy: Thoughts on Romans 8:28

My apologies to my regular readers that it has been so long (11 days) since my last post.  The reality of my new roles at school meant working almost full time for the past two weeks, even though I'm actually a part-time employee. 

   A comforting verse in the Bible is Romans 8:28, which states "All things work together for good for those who love God."  The Greek for "work together" is the root word of our English word "synergy."
   An online dictionary [dictionary.reference.com] gives this definition for synergy:

 the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect                                          that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.

Synergy takes place in the body when multiple muscles and nerves work together to achieve health and wellness; likewise, particular medications can work together to promote healing.  

   The first time I remember encountering the English term "synergy" was about twenty years ago when I studied the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey as part of a course.  The sixth habit that he laid out is entitled "Synergize."  He explained that working with others and accepting their different viewpoints and backgrounds enables people to solve problems and address issues in a way that could never occur if each person worked at them separately.
   During the past week I have observed synergy at work.  My school colleagues and I were led in a two-day workshop on Restorative Practices.  At the heart of this philosophy of relating to people is to give opportunity for people to speak face to face with a clear structure so that everyone is respected and listened to.  When a conflict has occurred and harm has been done, all the parties can be brought together to share how they have been affected.  Each individual also contributes to the way things can be resolved or made better.  When you participate in a restorative circle/conference like this, you cannot predict in advance how the disclosures of the people around the circle will affect the others, or how synergy will occur to bring about a measure of healing.  We were taught as facilitators-in-training to trust the process and to trust the stakeholders involved to arrive at an agreeable solution.
   During our lunch break on the second day a film of a restorative conference was shown.  In 2004 six young men had burned down Mood's Bridge, a historic covered bridge in Pennsylvania.  These young men wanted to meet with members of the community to express their remorse for what they had done. Both the offenders and the community members could have their say without interruption.  It was very moving as the community members who had initially been very angry accepted the regrets and sorrow of the young men and encouraged them to become builders in the remainder of their lives, not destroyers.  The agreement that the conference came to included each offender paying for a sixth share of the cost of rebuilding the bridge.  They would also put in hundreds of hours of volunteer labour in its reconstruction.  While the young men did serve a short sentence in jail, the synergy of the restorative conference led to a more satisfying resolution of their crime than punitive measures alone.  [The bridge has now been rebuilt in the style of the original.]
Image from wildblueberries.com 
   Getting back to Romans 8:28, the synergy that the Apostle Paul is talking about is slightly different.  Here he is pointing to the experiences in a believer's life, the ups and downs, the conflicts and the triumphs, the false accusations and the blessings.  All of these work together or synergize for the ultimate GOOD of those who love the Lord. God is able to take all the pieces that do not seem to fit together and by his Holy Spirit works them together for a purpose.  That purpose involves developing character, which is more valuable than material gain.

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