By Renee Edington
I’ve been thinking a lot about chaos and disorder. It started around the time I was writing a prayer for my seminary’s Fall convocation—a prayer for the new academic year. I struggled to write the prayer.
So much was happening in the world. In Kentucky, as in many other states in the South, COVID cases were rapidly rising. There was much talk of virus variants. Ida, a category 4 hurricane, slammed into Louisiana and quickly traveled northeast leaving a path of destruction and flooding. There had been a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, a country my husband has visited multiple times on building missions.
I was terrified about what would happen in Afghanistan with the withdrawal of a United States presence. My extended family and I were grieving the death of three family members within three months earlier in the year. My husband, two teen daughters and I cycled through a nasty non-COVID respiratory virus for a month with several trips to our healthcare providers and five negative COVID tests. How could I possibly write a prayer for the new academic year when I was so overwhelmed by the chaos and disorder around me?
I thought the prayer should be hopeful and inspirational. I wanted it to encourage students, faculty, and staff into a productive joyous semester. How in the world could I do that? I struggled. I kept putting it off until one day I was looking through my journal and found a daily web devotional I’d printed from Richard Rohr. Rohr talks about the “universal pattern of Order, Disorder and Reorder” that all humanity cycles through again and again and again.
That universal pattern began in Genesis 1 with God’s creativity. God took a swirling mass of chaos and disorder and made it what into a beautiful, ordered creation. It’s the story of how humanity began. It’s the story of a cosmic pattern which envelopes all of creation, including humankind.
Such a cosmic perspective caused me to look for places where I could find order, like my seminary classes. It brought thoughts of how I can quell the disorder in my own life. It brought thoughts of how I can take time away from the whirlwinds of the world to focus on my relationship with God, my friends, my family, and my neighbors. And then- how can I take all that into the big world? With that, I was able to write the prayer. But my musings on chaos and disorder weren’t finished.
I’m taking Foundations in Christian Mission class this semester in seminary where chaos and disorder came up again. We were asked to look at Genesis 1 from a missional hermeneutic- what is God’s mission? I’d narrowly thought of missions as people going to a foreign land to share the gospel. Over the past couple of years, my understanding of missions has broadened, and it’s expanded even further through an assignment in my Christian Mission class: Write an essay on the missio Dei– the mission of God.
So, what is God’s mission? What is humanity’s role in the mission? In the beginning, God took chaos and creatively turned it into the earth, heavens, humanity, and everything needed to sustain life. Wow, what a gift! What if humanity’s role in God’s mission is to care for the gift? Restore or sustain order where needed? Care for every living thing, including the earth?
I find some order to be beautiful and calm. Too much order is stark and unfriendly. I thrive when I am being creative, whether crafting a gift for a friend or writing a book review. Too much creativity or too many creative ideas and I become distracted and overwhelmed. I have trouble prioritizing and I can’t seem to get started.
What if order, disorder, chaos, creativity and reorder fall along a continuum? What if order, disorder, creativity and chaos are simply parts of being human- part of God’s creation gift? What if part of our mission as humans is to help each other navigate this universal pattern?
Some people thrive in the midst of chaos and are excellent emergency workers. Some people need peace and order to process ideas and develop answers to complex problems. I’ve noticed that when I am in the perfect place (for me) along the continuum of chaos/creativity/ order, I feel in alignment with God. I feel peaceful. When I’m overwhelmed by chaos or find myself micromanaging a situation, I don’t feel as close to God. Maybe we all have a place along that continuum. What if there’s a connection between finding our place on the continuum and maintaining a relationship with God?
So, after a tumultuous semester, here is where I’ve landed. God’s mission is continually giving a gift to humanity. God created humans and everything we need to sustain our existence. God continues to provide everything we need to live and thrive on earth. That means that humanity’s role in the missio Dei is far more than sharing the gospel. Sharing the gospel is important and but what about taking care of all of God’s gift? That means caring for trees, the sky, the sun, the land, animals, mammals, flying creatures- making sure the earth continues to be a place where all living beings can grow.
Our role in the mission is not just to share the gospel with other humans, but to continually care for other humans. Feed those who are hungry. Fight for those who are oppressed. Sound the alarm when we see injustices. Make quality education available for all. Never ever again let a group of humanity be enslaved. Welcome all to worship services with absolutely no exclusionary criteria. How about we just take care of each other, the world and ourselves?
Just as God created order out of a swirling mass of chaos in the beginning, God inspired creativity can rise out of any turmoil. This semester has not been easy but thanks to others who cared for me and encouraged me, I will finish strong. Those who encouraged and cared for me were being the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. They were carrying out their role in the missio Dei. They took care of me- one miniscule part of God’s gift to humanity. May God open our eyes to those who care for us. May God show us our place along the continuum. May God compel us to care for the amazing gift of Creation.
Renee LaBreche Edington has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and worked in the behavioral health field for 25 years before leaving that world to pursue a Master of Divinity with a concentration in pastoral care and chaplaincy at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Georgetown, Kentucky. She and husband Nathan Cook live in Lexington, Ky., where they are members of Calvary Baptist Church parent of 16-year-old twin daughters, one odd dog, four cats, and two tree frogs. Renee completed a CBF Student.Go internship during the summer of 2021 and is currently a CBF Leadership Scholarship recipient. In her spare time, Renee is employed at a retail pharmacy.