I spend much of my days frozen with ineptitude, sitting amid the ashes and rubble, staring at the vortex of chaos that eats into the structured semblance of order and whips the pieces into more chaos. Does anyone else feel this way? I sometimes wonder if people commit suicide because they cannot bear the disorder. We were created for more. We were created for perfection. And all around us is disorder.
Some people seem to handle it better than others. They have a greater tolerance for deficiency. They experience more joy in taming the vast unknown one project at a time, one task at a time, one minutia at a time. But I’m not like that. Is it depression? Laziness? Perfectionism? What is so terrifying about accepting things in their unfinished imperfect state? Is it that I’m afraid I will be loved less?
I’m afraid I will be loved less.
I shared this with my husband. What will happen if I don’t tame the chaos in my life?
Well … the very worst thing. My one child who suffers from an excess of sensibility (which I recognise with a strike to the gut) might end up unable to bear the disorder. I might lose him. The simple house projects, that we cannot bring about through lack of time, might not get done until we’re old, and that will mean that we spend many more years in disordered imperfection than we do in ordered asylum. The sweetness of declaring a set budget and set diet – boundaries fixed in pleasant places – cannot offer relief if I’m too overwhelmed to set them in the first place, knowing all the while I’m all too likely to fall short of keeping them. What will happen if I can’t perfect my eating routine now and I just keep getting fatter and fatter until I die?
My husband told me he cannot love me less. He told me the other day that he glanced down at a pair of discarded shoes on the floor. They are my most basic pair. Black oxfords with little ties and customised insoles. They have not been polished recently and the edges are worn, and he thought, “Those are the perfect disguise for the perfect treasure.” You take one look at those shoes and you look away again. You think – they don’t contain anything of value. They are not chic Louboutin killer high heels. (This comes from me – not him. My husband has no idea who Louboutin is). The person wearing those shoes will not be anybody special.
But then, thought my husband, the treasure remains hidden for only me to see. This is what he told me, and this was the balm that he poured over my heart while I simultaneously tried to process it and believe it.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
“I can’t handle the chaos!” I said.
“The earth was chaotic at one time,” my husband answered. “And God created perfection and order out of it. And our world is surprisingly orderly despite everything. We can’t get that paper from the bank, but the spring flowers come up just the same. And along with it,” he joked, “the weeds.”
“What does it say at the beginning of Genesis?” he asked, ” The earth is chaotic?”
“The earth was formless and empty,” I replied.
“In French it says chaotic. It comes from the Hebrew words tohu bohu, which the French have actually adopted, although in French it means more of a loud chaos, like a ruckus. There are many different interpretations of tohu-bohu, which is why it’s translated in so many different ways.” And then – because he needed to get to work – he got up and handed me four different French translations to discover, before walking off.
In one French Bible it said chaotic and empty. “La terre n’était que chaos et vide.” In another it said empty and vague. In a third it said invisible and unorganised. And in the last one it said unformed and empty. The world was kind of a mess, and God created order out of it in this beautiful way – creation! And the small order he brings out of every small disorder is part of the creation process. And the making of who we will be out of who we were and who we are is part of the creation process too.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10)
I will go on, of course, despite the crushing chaos. Of course I will. It’s unthinkable to give up. But I’m finding it is just as vital to surrender to what is if I am ever to taste grace.
PS I was honoured to win Voice of the Year (VOTY) from BlogHer with my post at BonBonBreak on The Threat Stemming from Charlie Hebdo. Unfortunately I won’t be attending BlogHer this year because we have run out of frequent flier miles.
PPS I’ve also decided to stop teaching English classes in the home next year because I’m not able to get enough time with my kids and they have really suffered from it this year. I will continue my tutoring at a private school because it falls during school hours. And I’m on the fence about continuing lessons in the after-school program.
It’s a little terrifying for me – the end of an era. I’ve been teaching some of these kids for 6 years. I’m unsure how it will all go financially, but I want to make more of a career out of writing and be there for my kids, so I have to take the plunge. I hope this will ease the pressure I’ve faced this year due to lack of time.
And I hope it will help me to embrace the imperfection. 🙂