Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Order and chaos

Oh, Lord.

It's been ages since I've been here. I'm not really sure why. Since I last wrote anything I've been on a wonderfully inspiring writer's weekend where lovely people who are real writers were very encouraging. You'd think I'd have come back all enthusiastic and full of ideas, but it's not worked that way.

My head is full of things. Loads of things. Messy things like worries and annoyances and jumbled half-formed things that lurk.  Even as I sit here my neighbour is cutting down an old tree that is technically on his side of the fence but it's been there all my life and I'm disproportionately upset about it. 

My head gets clogged up, Lord. That's what happens. It gets stuck on something and sort of backs up like a blocked drain and then nothing can get through. 

It's chaos in there. 

Now, I'm a person who likes order. I plan. I like to know what I'm doing. When I'm disorganised I get in a flap and I can't think straight and the thinking-through-a-fog thing makes me miserable. And it gets worse. 

I don't like it. 

You know that peace that you promised us, the kind that passes understanding? Well, I'd really like some, please. Peace beyond the clutter inside my head, beyond the noise in my ear that won't seem to go away, beyond the noise of the power-saw on the trunk of the tree. 

Help me to clear my head, will you, Father, so that I can concentrate on things? There are some really important things coming up and all the time I'm sitting here with my engine idling but no gear selected feels like precious time wasted. I've got some really good opportunities that I need to take advantage of before they disappear, but I need to do lots of work.  

There are exciting things happening at church; I know that you are moving and I am so looking forward to seeing what you have in mind, but I need to be alert and active because there's lots of opposition. You know that old phrase, 'We must be doing something right because everything is going wrong'? 

Well, this is no time for me to be fibrillating, jelly-like.

And then I realise that I've been praying like this for a while and I'm still the same. Some mornings I wake up with a noise in my head and a disconnected, disorientated feeling and I know that the day is going to be a washout. On those days I can't think, let alone read or write. Some days I have lots of ideas but can't seem to carve out any time to concentrate. Some days I just don't have the energy for anything and it doesn't seem worth trying.

So, what am I doing wrong? Why won't you help me? What is there for me to learn from the fog? 

A friend said something to me the other day about the idea of order and chaos. About how it was In The Beginning. It goes like this:
''In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
Genesis 1:1-2 (NIV)
You were there before there was anything. Before anything went Bang, before anything was, you were. How long were you there before you decided to come over all creative and make the galaxies and the planets and the earth and the trees? (One less, now. Unhappy face here.) How long were you hovering? 

The Message bible has a wonderfully rich translation:
"First this: God created the Heavens and Earth - all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.'
Genesis 1:1-2 (Message)
You brooded.  My dictionary indicates a couple of uses of the word; to cover, loom, fill an atmosphere or scene -  well, that seems likely. Back then there was only you. You were everything, everywhere. You were God then, you always were. Nothing else was. 

But also it suggests that you were thinking. Pondering. Dwelling on something. Mulling something over. You had a Plan. 

And then you acted. You said 'Let there be light.' and there was light. You made the land and the sea and the sun and the moon and the animals and birds and plants and trees. (Sniff). And then you made man. 

I have always thought that you brought order out of chaos. You created neat sets of twenty-four hours with a sun for the day and a moon for the night. You made the seashore with tides rhythmically rising and falling. You made mountains for beauty and tiny blossoms just because you could. Even in the wilderness we find geometric patterns; evidence of order and intent. 

I have always thought chaos = bad, order = good.

But my friend suggested to me that you were there in the chaos, and always had been. Chaos doesn't upset you - nothing bothers you at all. You weren't oppressed by the lack of order, you were more than it. You didn't need to change the chaos into something else; you decided to. You hovered over the formlessness and emptiness, the 'soup' and you decided to create something not because what there was already was displeasing, but because you wanted people. You had it in mind to love us. To love even me. 

You thought of me even as you brooded over the emptiness. 

So you were in the chaos. Are you in my chaos, my little, selfish, confused head? Are you there just as you are everywhere else? Is it possible for me to trust you even when I can't see what lies ahead? When I'm in a flap because I don't feel well and I don't know from day to day what I'll be capable of? When I so, so want to be full-steam-ahead but I'm only trundling along with many stops and starts? 

Is it possible for me, a planner, an analyser, a careful, methodical sort of person to just let go and trust you when things are messy? I wonder if I could just stop trying to be in control of a situation that is (for me) uncontrollable, would I find that peace? An inner peace even when the noise in my ear won't go away and the power-saw is now working on another tree?

Even when my To Do list is getting longer and more forbidding and deadlines loom closer and things that might happen in the future seem worryingly likely?

Oh, Lord. Is chaos not bad at all if it drives me to run to you and duck under the shelter of your wings? A wise lady recently told me that I needed to know that you are my strong tower. I can run and hide in you until things feel safer, until I'm ready to come out again. Will that day ever come? I just want to hide and stay hidden. 

I know that for some people chaos isn't scary; they welcome spontaneity where I sidestep it and they relish the new and surprising where I need time and space to get used to things.  Do I use my personality type as an excuse for liking things howI like them? Do I lean heavily on routine and order and make them into idols, valuing them far too highly? 

Is that why the fog won't lift; so that I can't apply the usual stuff and organise myself content again?

Do I have to make an adjustment?  Depend less on my own ability to make things happen and rely more on you? Stop searching for predictability and be content with this moment, right now, even if it seems chaotic and I can't make sense of it? 

Put like that it seems a) obvious and b) simple. It might be a) but for me it's far from b). 

Lord, you made me the way I am. You designed me with an in-built desire to have things neat and tidy, both physically and emotionally. Help me cope with disorder without clamping my hands over my ears and going back to bed. Help me to keep my eyes steady on you instead of endlessly looking about me for the right direction. At the moment the path seems overgrown and very difficult to find. Instead of beating about in the wilderness trying to find it maybe I need to sit down somewhere and wait for the next instruction. 

Lord Jesus, help me to turn down the static so that I can hear what you're saying. Help me to relax into the chaos until you want me to negotiate my way out of it. Help me to stop panicking when my head is full. I don't need to be in perpetual motion on a hamster wheel running, running to get nowhere.

I'm thinking that this is what you want me to learn.

What I do is so much less important than what I am.

Planning, striving, achieving; so much less important than my relationship with you.

Deadlines matter not one bit when I'm following your Plan and not mine. Timing that seems so urgent and inflexible in my little life is irrelevant to you. You are the master builder, not me. My Lego houses are insignificant in comparison to the eternal mansions and palaces of yours.

And the tree was not mine to begin with. It's just as out of my control as the weather and my tomorrow. So the skyline of the garden will change from the way it's been for more than forty years. Something that was there is now missing. 

Help me to see past it.  

Linking up with Tania Vaughan's Monday Ministry.


  1. Beautiful. I can relate with his so much, I need things organised and planned but they don't always turn out like that. It's so hard to not keep pestering God and to have peace when you feel anything but. Sending love. Xx

  2. I think I pester and pester but ask for the wrong things. Thanks, Melanie.

  3. When peace like a river attendeth my way
    When sorrows like sea billows roll
    Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to know
    It is well, it is well. With my soul.
    That's what's important, it is well with your soul xx

    1. Absolutely. It is well, it is well with my soul. Thank you.

  4. Always love your analogies Helen. I worked in the plumbing industry for years. Something to go with your thoughts: When a dink drain is plugged with STUFF; grease, hair, goop, grease, etc., one technique to clear the drain was to punch a hole in the center of the blockage with a "rooter", a "snake" or even "Drain-O", a strong chemical. Once there was an opening, then water could be forced through and cleared the drain. Life can sometimes be the "clogged drain" and the Word of God can force an opening in the center, clearing the mess; the chaos, the stress, the circumstances permitting the Water of Life to flow through the body.

    1. Thank you, Mel! I love it when you add your analogy-extensions! Thanks for this one. The Holy Spirit as Drain-o. :-)

  5. Helen, I can honestly say I read this and thought I'd love to sit and have a coffee and a chat with you. Control Freaks Anonymous!! I nodded through every paragraph and smiled in recognition. You are so so open and honest in your sharing it is an encouragement and a blessing always to read your posts. Thank you :)

    1. Coffee, yes please! I know just what you mean; so often we're on the same page. Thanks for leaving such an encouraging message.

  6. I absolutely love to read your thoughts and musings with God. You are so transparent. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing YOU! I'm only taking a partial sabbatical from you this summer. I'm still following you reading occasionally and commenting when something you write touches me. God bless.

    1. Thanks, Steven! I'm honoured that I'm still on your list. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment to encourage me. It means a lot.

  7. This is so completely where I am right now. Thanks for articulating what is residing in the mush of my brain right now.

    1. Thank you, Ginger! Those Me Too moments cheer me up no end.


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