Some things I can handle being a mess. Not my coffee maker, and not my disc golf bag and discs. Those things I clean on a regular basis. I’m weirdly anal about them. But the rest of the stuff in my life, I’m pretty chill about. The jeans are worn for days on end, and there are almost always piles of papers with my scribbling all over them on my office. In many ways, trying to stay clean and tidy all the time is too much work.
Bethany and I made a decision about 3 years ago that we would no longer keep the social norm of only allowing people into our house if it was perfectly clean, tidy, and well-ordered. So if you knocked on our door and Sariya had just puked on the carpet, the laundry pile was in the living room, and bread-baking flour was covering the kitchen counter (and floor, thank you boys)…. that would not be a valid excuse for us to not let you in.
We realized that if we wanted to offer a picture perfect atmosphere in our house all the time, one of three things would have to happen:
- We’d have to stop playing, making things, cooking, and letting the kids out of their room.
- We simply wouldn’t open our home to people very often.
- We’d have to get rid of our kids. I’ll admit, this option was probably the most attractive.
So we resigned ourselves to the fact that if we wanted to do life with other people, there was going to be an inevitable mess involved. But the house is just the tip of the iceberg.
We have a set of values that we adhere to as a part of the LifePath Church community. Things like Love, Presence, Teachability. Those kinds of things.
As we get further into the journey, we may add some new ones here and there. But we’re contemplating a weird one. We’re thinking about adding Chaos as one of our values. Yeah.
Chew on that. I still am.
Let me explain this a bit. Our family is not in the best position to start a new enterprise like a church community. We have recently relocated. Bethany just birthed a kid. Number 3. Under 4 yrs. Yikes. We have to work our tails off to be anywhere on time, and our plans change so regularly. Life right now is unpredictable, crazy, messy, frustrating, chaotic. So is our faith community. No building, no big budget. Sometimes I don’t communicate everything as clearly as I should. Sometimes our gatherings are tempered with tantrums… but I usually calm down once I get a snack (that was a joke). We’re frequently changing and adjusting things based on dozens of different factors. Many of us have kids, which just adds to the craziness. It’s chaos.
But let me tell you one thing… where there’s no life, there’s no chaos.
It’s just dead.
There’s nothing chaotic about a rock.
So Bethany and I are having this conversation the other day, talking about some new ideas, what’s going well and what’s not, and she says,
Maybe chaos should be one of our values.
And I start thinking about it. Chaos is not typically a good word. It represents a lack of control, a swirling about, a confusion of sorts. But interestingly, in the scriptures, it’s those places where we actually see God’s power show up. It’s the chaos of the storm that Jesus speaks to. It’s the chaos of a guy’s dying daughter, when he can’t understand why or what’s happening, that Jesus heals. It’s the chaos of confusion, when Jesus dies and the movement that he began is completely rattled and everyone is scattering and crying and questioning and wanting to give up… that new life happens. Hope springs from chaos.
The way I look at it, chaos means:
- We don’t have control.
- Somewhere, there’s probably a mess involved.
- There’s movement happening.
Whatever you think about chaos, it’s certainly not lifeless.
We’ve talked before about what is better at the end of a day- a home cluttered with dirty dishes from a party with our friends, toys that have been strewn about by dozens of tiny fingers, dirt on the carpet that’s been trudged in by our kids and our neighbors and our friends…. or nothing. A pristinely beautiful, perfectly ordered, lifeless…. house.
One shows that life has been happening. The other…..is prettier.
I want life.
And honestly, I can’t avoid life right now even if I tried. So the journey of embracing chaos as a value is less about creating chaos, and more about finally choosing that we’re not going to spend our time, energy, and lives trying to avoid it.
Because chaos is unavoidable. So what you choose to do with it makes all the difference.
Interesting, in that story of Jesus calming the storm in Luke 8:22 (and I’ve heard sooo many sermons about Jesus “calming the storms in our lives”), one of the significant things about it is not that he calms the storm. It’s that, as he’s in the boat, sleeping, during the storm, he’s surprised that his disciples are freaking out.
“WE’RE GONNA DROWN!!!!”
They scream. And Jesus says, “Where is your faith?” And he tells the storm to shut up. Now, honestly, I’m thinking that when Jesus asked that question, he didn’t mean “Don’t you believe I can calm this storm?”
I feel like his question was more like:
“Don’t you have any faith? I was here the whole time, why were you freaking out?”
The point is not that Jesus calms every storm in our life. The point is presence, the promise that he will never leave us. He offers peace in the storm, not always from the storm. That’s a hard one to swallow sometimes, I’ll admit.
But when we can find peace in the chaos, embracing it as an incredibly important part of our journey, then we become free. We stop complaining about everything in our lives that isn’t in perfect order. We can even stop seeing it as hindering our ability to connect with God. Because our joy is not dependent on our circumstances, and God loves me just as much when my son is screaming as he does when all of our children are quietly eating their breakfast and telling each other how much they love and value their relationships. Oh wait. That doesn’t happen.
And when we find peace in the chaos, or at least trust that God is in the midst of the chaos, then people notice something different. And it’s attractive. Because it’s the Jesus life coming through in our own lives. And it’s an incredible way to live.
As stated earlier, Bethany and I live in a decent amount of chaos. We don’t have a great deal of control in our lives. Changing schedules, sicknesses, sleepless nights, etc have nailed us lately. And some of the others in our faith family are in the same boat. But, if we can seek God and find peace in the moments when we’re aware of our lack of control, maybe there’s a deeper reality that we’re not supposed to be in control of everything. Maybe, in our desire to control every outcome of every situation, we actually miss hearing the whisper of God in our ears, and we miss feeling the gentle nudges that God offers us to show us a better way- a way where we can live in trust.
The most countercultural thing about life with Jesus is that it’s possible to have peace IN the chaos of life, not just when the storm calms down. And, in fact, it’s when we are able to rest, lying on the boat, with wind and waves swirling, that we might actually find ourselves the closest to Jesus.
It’s nice when the storms calm down, when all is at peace. And I’m thankful for those moments. But in my life, and likely yours, those spots are few and far between. I’m thinking the next lull in my chaotic storm will be about 15 years from now or so. So we better learn how to have a little faith, as Jesus asks us to, so that we can joyfully and patiently see God up close in the chaos.