We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature. —Sonya Renee Taylor
When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth was without shape or form (chaotic), it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters—God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared. Genesis 1:1-3 (CEB)
The very first verses of the Bible, in Genesis, are dedicated to ordering a world that starts in total bedlam! In the beginning, God created from a formless void, “without shape or form.” In Hebrew, the word used here can also mean God created from chaos.
So in the beginning God created…out of the chaos! I get that! Story of my life!
When I first graduated college, I went to live with my grandfather, who had dementia. He was a gentle soul and had himself been a nurse and caretaker. He was patient with his limitations, and in that stage of his life he taught his perfectionist granddaughter that worth is not determined by ability, but through and in and by love. He accepted care, and I started to see my own worth too, not as a caregiver, but simply as a created and loved child of God.
I won’t pretend that was an easy time, and I wouldn’t wish Alzheimer’s on anyone. But can you see the order it formed deep within me? Order from true chaos.
For four years, I also worked with people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and prostitution. A war vet walked the street all night in the bitter cold, unwilling and unable to trust enough to come inside. A hispanic neighbor who lived under the bridge collected food for those around him who were too paranoid to ever come out from hiding. Women shared horrific stories of abuse. I lost sleep over that. There was chaos on the streets and in my mind. I was in chaos.
One restless, chaotic night, there came order. God gave me a vision for an overnight center for women. By morning, I had written a proposal. Within a year, I had written the grants and a pilot was launched. Today, the Open Door is a well-known women’s shelter in Grand Rapids.
The process of opening that center was bitter and divisive within my organization, and it left me depleted and undervalued. For my own sake I had to leave, even as something so precious to me was just getting started. What came from that chaos?
This will come out of nowhere: a journalism degree and a decade-long career at Interlochen Public Radio, where I worked hard to make sure the community heard from voices we didn’t always hear from—voices of dignity. I reported on the tribes, from the Central Church breakfast, and the mental health drop-in center.
I did a major project on kids who age out of foster care—the ones who turn 18 and leave the system without permanent family ties. I stood with a young adult in front of the drug house she ended up living in as she completed high school.
My mind was again in chaos. And that’s also the story of how I became a mom—a mom to teenagers. Out of the chaos came my beautiful family.
No one loves chaos all the time, and I know that after the pandemic year, chaos is a dirty word. I certainly don’t want to dismiss the pain of chaos, either, especially in grief and loss. But in the midst of all this longing for “normal,” have we considered yet what new thing God is forming from the dust? From the chaos? Has God ever used chaos in your life to create something new—an order, an opportunity, a new way of thinking and being in the world?
In the chaos of this month, I know you’ve also had to wish farewell to a beloved pastor and his family. I thank you, in the midst of all that, for being willing to embrace something new—someone new. Me!
For me, a homecoming to Central Church feels like a sense order in my own chaos. Seven years ago, God upended my life. I was leading a radio station, managing it through its own chaos, when pastors around me started to discern with me a call to ordained ministry. I was 37 and had absolutely no plans to be a pastor, to leave the work I love or the home I love. I really didn’t want to be sent around the state at the behest of a bishop. I didn’t want to move far away for seminary.
But out of chaos came passion and excitement and a chance to serve. I have created diverse spaces of worship that honor and respect and reflect all ages, as well as diverse abilities and identities and experiences. I have been able to advocate for those who have been voiceless in the church. I have walked with people in their own personal chaos and grief. I have literally punched a hole in the church building to create an entrance accessible to everyone.
Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.
Coming home to you and to Traverse City, to my family and loved ones, this is an order in my own chaos. I also know that, out of pandemic and in pastoral change, my arrival comes with a little chaos.
And out of that, I wonder, what beautiful things will God help us create?
Together in Christ…Reaching Beyond our Doors.
I am honored to serve among you, Central Church!
God be praised!
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. —Philippians 1:6