Living with Chaos?
March is supposed to be the slow month…isn’t it? The month that is our buffer between the exhaustion of the Christmas season with all its planning and celebrating and the lull before the summer kick-offs, camps and VBS.
How are you enjoying the rest? Or would you say your life, home, and ministry are still in the midst of chaos? That there is no slow time – buffer zone – season of rest! Where did our buffer go? How have we managed to fill every month, every week, every day so that the seasons, holidays, and transitions all run together?
Do you feel like your life is in a constant state of chaos?
Israel’s history shared a similar reality – chaos! But their chaos was of their own making. The last chapters of Judges are startling, filled with devastation, and reek of chaos. It is almost incomprehensible to think that God’s chosen people, whom He had repeatedly rescued, would so drastically betray Him. Chapters 18 and 19 both begin: “In those days Israel had no king”. The reality though, is that they did have a king, The King of Kings. The Israelites chose to follow their own way, make their own decisions, and disobey God’s Word. The result for them was a disaster as they looked for help from a source other than God.
In the midst of the Israelite’s chaos in Judges, is the story of Ruth. Occurring at the same time historically (Ruth 1:1 and Judges 18/19) is the beautiful, story of Ruth. It is a story of faith, hope, obedience, and redemption. Ruth had her own chaos – loss of family, home, and security. Chaos not of her own making – but chaos none the less! The summation of Ruth could have been “In those days Ruth had no hope” but rather, Ruth is known for the great verse of commitment and hope: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth found joy in the midst of chaos as she gave up control, relied on others, and looked to God.
Does your life, your family, your ministries feel like chaos?
Is it chaos of your own making – have you over-committed, under designated, relied on yourself instead of your team, or filled your days with good things that keep you from focusing on the best? I have a friend who gave me great advice during a season of chaos in my life. She told me to get a 3×5 card and post it by my desk. Whenever I had an opportunity to add to my chaos but through prayerful discernment discovered I should say “NO” rather than another yes, I was to write that opportunity on my card and rejoice in the things I don’t have to do! Seek the Lord’s guidance in how to respond to the chaos– how to eliminate and how to slow down – and then rejoice in what you can share, eliminate, give-a-way, and just say “NO” to. Remember that your worth is not determined on how much you do but on how loved you already are – the dearly beloved child of the One True God!
Or is it chaos that you have been given – chaos birthed from the realities of other’s lives, choices, and consequences? Do you find yourself overwhelmed with responsibilities and realities due to circumstances beyond your control – chaos not of your own making? How can you move forward without letting resentment, anger, and exhaustion rob you of joy and ministry effectiveness? Allow others to help shoulder the burden and carry some of the load. Why is it that when we are the most overwhelmed, we tend to retreat? That is the time we need to depend on our team and loosen control. In the midst of all the chaos, choose joy.
Henri Nouwen (2009) offers these concluding words in his wonderful book, In the Name of Jesus. Perhaps in the midst of your chaos – they will be a blessing for you!
Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, ‘Do you love me?’ Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people. (pp. 71-72)
Dr. Colleen Derr
Associate Professor of Congregational Formation and Family Ministry
Wesley Seminary at IWU