From 30,000 feet above the earth, I cannot help but notice the human need for order. Roads extend in every direction. Houses neatly line neighborhood streets. Fields are partitioned into angled squares. Everything made by human hands stands out from the world around it, distinguished by its carefully plotted construction and development.
Yet in the midst of this human-created order, I am struck by the seeming chaos of the God-created nature surrounding it. Roads stretch for miles in perfectly straight lines while rivers twist and wind and curve. Buildings sit at 90-degree angles to each other while mountains ascend and descend without prediction. Cornfields boast straight rows of neatly planted crops while forests sprawl in every direction the wind blows. Seashores cradle the curves of land while swimming pools sharply square off backyards.
Here in this airplane, I find myself attempting to create some of this order within my own heart. I am returning to my hometown because a lifelong friend’s father has just died. His death was neither neat nor ordered. The intricate order of the medical world could not conquer the chaos of his body. He suffered greatly. He left a young wife with three children. They were like my own family, and I returned for a moment to weep and share at least one of these chaotic days with them. The questions surge. Why a fatherless child? Why such deep disappointment? Why more chaos?
As I grasp for answers to my questions, I notice that up here in the clouds, chaos looks different than it does down there. As humans, we create neat replication after neat replication. Houses. Roads. Swimming pools. Cornfields. They have straight lines, neat angles, and smooth surfaces. To be considered valuable, they must not be broken, or have holes, or be damaged in any way. We mass produce them, then use them to help tame the chaos around us. In a word, we choose to call these replications “order”.
Long before our own replications, God created us. Along with us, he made his own replications. Winding rivers. Jagged mountains. Shadowy forests. Raging winds. Endless seas. They have crooked lines, uneven angles, bumpy surfaces. To be considered valuable, they were simply created. They live through brokenness, holes, and severe damage. Sometimes they die, but are always recreated anew. In a word, God chose to call His replications “good”.
Indeed, human creations pale in comparison to His, and if we ourselves tried to apply His rules of creation to our own, we would most likely end up calling it “chaos”. We don’t necessarily see it as such when we look at a tree or mountain, but all of the elements lie right in front of us. We easily recognize that nature’s chaos is capable of creating immeasurable beauty. Why, then, is it so difficult to see the possibility of the beauty of the chaos in our own lives?
So seems life today. God’s rules of order starkly contrast with my understanding of them. What I perceive as chaos, He purposes to be order. A life cut short is also the opening of a closed heart. Deep disappointment is also hope in growth. A father dying is also a child returning home.
With our straight roads and cookie cutter neighborhoods, we have subtly fooled ourselves to believe that “human-order” itself can straighten out the chaos. And yet, as the depth of human need rages, nature reminds us minutely that our understanding of order is all messed up. It reminds us that power is completely out of our hands and that our sole job is to experience the creativity of the chaos, not straighten out the lines.