For example, remember the hole I patched in my backyard after my dog dug halfway to the center of the earth? I filled the hole and patched it with sod from another part of the yard where we are planting a vegetable garden. One day later, I watched Troy sniff the new sod, then start a new hole in the center of the yard. My attempt at backyard order was thwarted again. I’m still seeking another plan because, although holes in the lawn aren’t horrible in the overall scheme of life, I have a history of twisting my ankle in them.
As another example, I recently tried to be a good citizen and served two days of jury duty in downtown L.A. I thought I could manage this, but my heart decided otherwise. On my first day in the jury pool, I insisted that evening on meeting with a group of people whom I enjoy and, in my exhaustion on my way to the coffee shop where we meet, tripped over a curb and went splat on the sidewalk. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything, but I severely bruised the muscles and soft tissue in the entire upper left quadrant of my chest (use you imagination) and haven’t been able to move well or breathe well ever since. I had to forgo my training regimen for two weeks, and my lung capacity has gone down the drain. Hence, the delay in a blog post after my renewed commitment to be here every week. Dang! All this from a silly accident! Surely, chaos rules the world.
I feel like one of those people who trys to nail down a warped piece of plywood: I get three corners nailed in place, but when I try for the fourth, the dang thing pops loose again.
Sitting in church last week, I remembered the creation stories in Genesis. I don’t remember what the preacher said, or what the topic was, but I consider my train of thought well worth the price of admission, and here it is:
The creation myths in Genesis were not originally written down, but rather, told around campfires by nomads. They were passed along by word-of-mouth until, much later, they were written and codified. Other contemporary societies beyond the Hebrews had different creations myths/stories. In many of those, the powerful/divine figure “brings order out of chaos.” What I realized in worship last Sunday is that in the creation myths of Genesis (i.e. the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions), the Divine Power who creates the world creates light, and then everything else, but never is said to bring order to the creation. Light and darkness, land and water, creatures and plants, men and women, but never in these creation myths/stories does God bring order from chaos.
As I sat in worship that morning, I remembered this difference between these creation myths and their contemporaries, and decided that if even God (I’m a Christian) didn’t bring order out of chaos, why should I think that I can do any better?!
I haven’t decided what to do with this thought yet, because my life still feels like a seesaw between order and chaos, but at least I have a broader perspective that, to my mind, adds a bit of humor to my situation. Yes, God created the world, but earthquakes, floods and tornadoes still happen. And God knows that humanity wreaks chaos everywhere it goes. Therefore, if chaos is part of creation, I guess I need to accept its place in my world.
Today in worship, we sang a hymn by one of my favorite hymn writers, Thomas Troeger, “Where Mountains Lift the Eye” (Troeger, 1991). For the last few decades, Troeger has lived near the Rocky Mountains and the geology of his surroundings informs his lyrics. For me, the lyrics of this hymn speak to God’s welcoming of the tension between order and chaos.
Where mountains lift the eye above the level plain
and shift our sight toward heaven’s sky we work and pray to gain
a vision of the range that rises in the mind
as science, thought and culture change how faith will be defined.
Chorus: We do not fear for we believe God dreams of world we can’t conceive.
The highest peaks are found where plates of bedrock shift,
disturbance of the solid rock is God’s creative gift,
who still is sculpting earth and uses that same art
around the world to bring to birth new landscapes in the heart. (Chorus)
Those lofty, sharp edged forms attract the clouds and rain
and with their melting winter storms revive the thirsting plain
where seeds then burst and sprout with that same urgent force
which turns a barren heart from doubt to praise life’s end and source. (Chorus)
As primal powers fuse earth’s drifting crust of stone
the stress of many creeds and views far different from our own
will not destroy belief but make it broad and wise
and faith’s familiar old relief will see new mountains rise.
Chorus: We do not fear for we believe God dreams of worlds we can’t conceive.
So, even though chaos re-enters the window every time I push it out the door, I guess I’ll just have to learn how to live with and learn from it.