What is going on???
As we enter into the last full week before our US election this year, it feels like the world is in tatters. For the last six months, the unforseen Coronavirus has devastated millions of lives, stripping some of health, even life, others of employment, and yet others of mental well-being. The ongoing economic impact is yet to come, and while no one knows precisely what will happen, right now prospects are looking grim.
And of course, if the pandemic were the only thing that was straining our lives right now, that would be so much simpler! Add to a global pandemic the mounting pressure due to unresolved racial issues, and don't even get me started on the political scene right now...this all just seems like a hot mess right now, doesn't it?? Looking back just a year ago, in hindsight our lives then seem so much simpler, so much freer - and we didn't even know it at the time!
The last few months I've increasingly noticed the toll this whole situation has been having on myself and the people around me. The constant psychological stress of a constantly changing stressful present and an uncertain future are not things we're designed to live with in an ongoing way. I find myself feeling this kind of 'mental fog' that hangs over my life: making it harder to think clearly and draining my energy reserves.
As this whole crazy journey continues, I find that it's getting harder to maintain an expectation that things will get better. Is this what we're stuck with now? The world coming apart at the seems all around us, while we all struggle to cope??
An Unexpected Observation
I wasn't directly thinking about all of this, but I happened to notice something that really shifted things for me in this area about a week ago. I was preparing for another message and I was exploring God's creative process. As I've done many times, I was revisiting some of the first verses of the Bible:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1–2
That second verse stood out to me: the earth was without form and void...this is a phrase I've taught about many times. I think a great example of "without form and void" is a teenager's bedroom. Everything is there, but it's not structured correctly. It's a mess; chaotic. That's when it hit me: when I create, I start with a blank canvas, but when God creates, he starts with chaos.
Let me just say that again: when God creates, he doesn't start with a blank canvas, he starts with chaos.
That's so counterintuitive to me. When I want to express my creativity, what I love is openness; room to explore without things getting in the way. I like a blank piece of paper; an empty whiteboard. When things get messy, it feels like it shuts down my creativity. Chaos is the opposite of what I'm looking for, and yet with God, that's how creation week starts. We see the same thing with Jesus Christ; the new world is born through the chaotic mess of the betrayal of a friend, the scattering of his disciples, the brutality of the Romans, all driven along by the hatred of a fallen angel.
A Context of Opportunity
Without realizing it, I did what is so easy to do: I projected my preferences and process on to God. I found myself feeling anxious and hopeless because I was beginning to feel like the chaos and darkness in the world around us would interrupt God's kingdom activity, when in reality it is the seedbed for it. It seems to me a biblical processing of our present moment isn't one where we wrestle to see where God could find the room to move, but rather the soil is richer than ever before for God to bring what he wants to from our world. Chaos isn't interrupting God's activity; chaos only increases God's opportunities for his creative power to work. God isn't up in heaven worrying about how this is all going to work out, he sees only growing places where he gets to show off his ingenuity.
I find there is something important in there for me. A resting posture I can take in that fact that God's perspective isn't wrapped up with the needs of the moment or the lack of clarity for how this will all work out. Maybe it looks like the world is going to pot to me, but in some way I can't understand, but can find the faith to believe, God sees a context that is only looking more fun to work with. Our God is a God of resurrection; his life fills that which has died, and for that reason I don't have to see the condition of the world around me with anxiety, but with hope.