In a recent edition of his Daily Meditations, Richard Rohr talks about the pattern of life as being a movement from order to disorder to reorder — we can’t skip the disorder to get to the reorder, and we can’t stay in order too long otherwise we start to think we can see the Big Picture, but we really can’t. He says, “…disorder helps us grow up. We dare not get rid of our pain before we have learned what it has to teach us. Jesus dramatically and shockingly endured disorder on the cross. He knew we would want to deny necessary suffering unless he made it overwhelmingly clear.” When we pass through disorder to reorder, however, “we are finally at home in the only world that ever existed. This is true and contemplative knowing. Here death is a part of life, failure is a part of victory, and imperfection is included in perfection. We are neither fighting nor fleeing reality but holding the creative tension, we are in the spacious place of grace out of which all newness comes. God is now in charge, not us.”
As I read this meditation, I had this overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for I could see this pattern in my life repeated many times. I even found myself giving thanks for the “disorder” He has brought to me (or I have brought to myself through my own sin) and yet he has led me through to reorder. Of course, I am also grateful for the order in which I spent most of my childhood and adolescence and in which I have lived during other periods of my life as well.
I spent more time reflecting on and naming the more obvious times of disorder to reorder in my life, like:
- The Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis I received right after I graduated from NPU and how by God’s grace and my parents’ and Nils’s loving care, I was able to stay in the pain for a long time, wrestling with God, until I came to a place of acceptance and trust. (This diagnosis has since been reversed, but for a number of years it was a source of apprehension.)
- God calling me to serve in Mexico for one year as a Covenant missionary right after my graduation and diagnosis, providing me with the courage to continue with this calling, and that year being one of the most exciting and scary years of my life. However, it also was a time of growing in my dependence on God rather than relying on my own abilities.
- God tugging at my heart to open up with a trusted counselor about the shame and pain I was still experiencing from an abusive high school relationship. It was one of the hardest things I ever did, and it brought back so many awful feelings from the past, but it also opened the door that led me on a new pathway toward healing, freedom and truth in my life. This story of sin, forgiveness, salvation and healing has been used by God to help others find healing in Christ from their painful past as well.
- These 14 years of missionary service in Mexico. It has not always been easy, exciting, fun, or filled with fruit; there have been many doubts, fears, discouragement, difficult relationships, even as there still are today. All of this is part of missionary life, along with the times of rejoicing, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, growth, salvation, beauty, laughter and love. Life is indeed a paradox. And so in all these years we have moved back and forth from order to disorder to reorder, I am thankful for all of those experiences because ultimately they have led us to the Crucified and Resurrected Christ.
And yet, if I am honest, friends, we are certainly in a time of “disorder” right now, for various reasons: our close friends and colleagues the Restrepos left for home assignment and we are the only missionaries in Mexico for this next year, our role in relation to the church is not always as clear as we would hope, our boys miss family and have days when they wish we could live in the US. We struggle at times with discouragement, wondering if there will ever come reorder out of all this chaos or longing once again for some sense of order and a feeling of control.
However, we are learning to live, as Richard Rohr states,
“in this third spacious place, neither fighting nor fleeing reality but holding the creative tension. We are in the spacious place of grace out of which all newness comes. God is now in charge, not us.”
We are not doing this perfectly, but we are on the journey together.
I close with the verse that I clung to when I struggled to accept my MS diagnosis and continues to bring hope and faith to me in difficult times,
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).