Chaos, Fridays, and Being Out Of Control
It doesn’t seem like that hard a task. Write a short devotional thought about 1 verse in Romans 8 each week and post it on Friday morning. Writing comes pretty easily to me. Romans is certainly full of great material. And now I have both Jon-Mical and Jakson to tell stories about. Surely I can do this little thing. We are 15 Fridays into the year. I have posted 11 “Fridays @ 8” and half of them have been late.
Part of that is because of my perfectionistic tendencies when it comes to telling a story. I don’t get hung up on telling the story perfectly but I do want to tell the right story to convey the message of the gospel. Do you know how hard it is to get a 3 year old to do just the right thing each week to illustrate the deep theological truth of St. Paul’s most profound letter? Another thing may be that my MENtoring group on Thursday gets bogged down in the details of God working in their lives and fails to come through with some amazing insight each week to flesh out the devotional.
The primary reason that I have a hard time getting this done however, (okay, the only reason), is a lack of discipline on my part and my ability to let life get out of control. I have such great intentions on Monday but by the end of the week I am behind on paperwork, there are phone calls to make, and I am 10 miles overdue on my running schedule. Life just gets out of control, not occasionally but on a weekly (make that daily) basis.
We live in an unbelievably fast paced, information society. With texting, emails, and Facebook I am in constant contact with almost everybody. Some of that is good but it also means that there is very little down time. We are expected (either actually or an internal pressure we put on ourselves) to be always available and immediate in our response to others. It also means that when we get behind, we get behind fast. Those emails pile up relentlessly in my mailbox, the digital reports cram into my Outlook To Do file, and the cell phone voicemails line up on my Inbox like impatient voters at the polling booth. I can never catch up. I am always under the gun. And chaos seems to be the new normal. I’m not complaining. I’m describing your life too.
So how do we stay on top of the crowded confusion of our computer noise life? How do I make sense of the chaos and focus on the things that really matter? Romans 8:12 says, “Therefore brothers (and sisters), we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.” In The Message it says, “So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent.” Another way of saying it is “we are in this world but not of it,” a rough translation of John 17:16. Maybe chaos is the new normal. Maybe full speed ahead is the only gear our world has. But that does not mean that in me, deep in me where it really matters, I cannot be a person of peace, living in the quiet focus of His presence.
Tax forms are going to pile up, the laundry basket is going to overflow, the phone will never stop ringing, and deadlines are going to keep coming at us, but that is not the world that we are obligated to. Oh, we live in it, we have to deal with it, but we don’t owe it anything. Our true allegiance is to the One who stepped into our hectic world from a place before time and said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled. Do not be afraid.”
I am trying to learn to live life that is focused on the Father, centered in the Son, and scheduled by the Spirit rather that giving in to the pounding pulse of a never-be-satisfied world. I still have to pay bills, go to appointments, schedule meetings, and mow the grass but my sense of who I am is not dictated by my ability to multi-task. It comes from knowing that I am His and He holds me in the palm of His great big, steady, quiet hand.
Maybe it would be helpful to hear a few things I am trying to put in place to accomplish this. First, I am trying to remember to begin and end well. I have very little control over the middle of the day stuff. Life just happens and the only thing I can be absolutely sure of is that I will be interrupted with the unexpected. But before I leave the house in the morning and before I go to bed at night I am still in charge (well, as much as Doris lets me be). I am learning how crucial it is that I quiet my heart, hear Him in His Word, and allow the Spirit to set the agenda for the day.
Secondly, I am learning to escape often from the clamor and the chaos to that secret space that only He knows about and refocus my attention on what matters. It takes just a second or two, literally. A whispered prayer, a breathed praise, a single word of centering. “Help me Lord.” “Father, this is yours.” “Jesus, come.” In an instant I am back on track, remembering who’s I am and what I am really obligated to. The more I do that the better I get at it.
Finally, I am trying to learn to surround myself with serenity by passing it on to those around me. Taking the time to smile at the Starbucks girls. Turning my face and really listening to the incessant chatter of my grandson. Asking the guy in the cubicle beside me how he is and really paying attention to his response. These things all build a presence of peace in my world. They not only slow me down but they create an atmosphere of His joy in which I can reside for a moment.
Now having said all of that, my life is still out of control. I am still way behind on my writing and here it is Friday again. But you know what? That’s okay. Because while I live in this activity I am not obligated to it. My life is in the Spirit. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m just going to sit here a minute….peace.