Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chaos in Our Lives

There are lilies blooming on the church lawn. Their petals are translucent, brilliant white, with yellow anthers adorning the centers like jewels hung from long green filaments. Spring time is nature time.

In the church office I have a desktop background that is a picture my husband took of turtles on a log spanning the creek that runs through our property. They are turtles of many sizes and more than one specie. Big, little; old and rusty-looking, fresh and green and black; all watchful and curious. There are 14 of them along the log, with their doubles reflecting from the water below. It’s a friendly picture. Several people have complimented it.

turtles on a (c)  by dkminnick

Recently our family worked together to move that log. It had sunk lower in the water, part of it had broken off, and it was now causing more problems by blocking the creek flow than it was providing perches for the turtles. My husband waded into the water to leverage the log. One of our sons used an ax to try to severe it at the base where it had fallen in. Their combined efforts snapped the log, and we moved it to a spot better suited to creek and turtles alike.

Well, we hope it will be. As we surveyed the changed geography – we are also altering the stream bed in an effort to enlarge it – I wondered if they’d recognize there was still something there for them. We’d changed their world, but we hadn’t done it capriciously or without providing something for them. And we plan to do more for them. The turmoil we’re creating in the meantime, however, may be more than they can cope with. We have no way of communicating with them what we are up to. They will only be able to see the results when they are complete.

How often is life like that?

How often are our lives troubled, even turned upside down, by forces beyond our control? Far too often. Equally often, the forces turning us upside down have no care for our misfortune or discomfort. Unlike my family trying to provide a sunning haven for the turtles, not everyone is trying to do us a good turn. They are simply barging along on their own paths with no regard for collateral damage. So, how is one to cope?

Like the turtles, we must wait. Unlike the turtles, however, we can wait in expectation. We can wait in expectation because we know something the turtles do not. Truly, our misfortune may be caused by other people or other forces in our lives. But the courses our lives take is not directed by them. We need to pause and wait in expectation to see what God does with what has happened. While I don’t believe that God causes turmoil, I believe He uses whatever crosses our paths to shape us.

Recently a family member had concerns over the direction his job was taking. It was causing him much frustration and heartache, and it was affecting his entire life. The most recent blow came as he learned of personnel changes that would affect him, and that he felt were both unfair and wrongheaded. It came as a crushing blow. He hung his head as he said how unbelievable the situation had become, and how tired it made him.

“Wait for it,” I told him, sounding like M*A*S*H’s Radar O’Reilly hearing incoming helicopters before anyone else.


“Wait for it. Don’t think of this so much as a decision the company made. Think of it as one God made. Wait and see how God will use this to better your situation. Because it can happen. “

His immediate response was an unconvinced “Yeah.”

It’s hard to hang onto that concept when we are in the midst of pain. Yet, that is when we need it most. It is a concept we come gradually to accept as we grieve and move through the pain of whatever our ordeal is. It is a concept we see more clearly as events transpire. The kaleidoscope turns and the scenery shifts, and we see where God’s hand has moved and that He has lifted us once again.

God made the world out of chaos. Although some days it seems like He left some of that chaos behind, just think what He can make of it in our lives.

*also to be posted as a column in St. Paul's-in-the-Pines June newsletter