The Chaos Monsters

Chaos monsters have taken over our house.  The house, like its owners, is “of a certain age.”   Like its owners, it requires quite a bit of patching up and occasionally a major overhaul, removal, or replacement of parts.  Like its owners’s parts, none bother to take a number or wait in turn.  It started with the necessary and suddenly possible remodeling to create a safe and accessible home for my daughter.  Like all accessibility, it soon proves to be good for everyone.  The contractor is a dream with whom to work.  He has very tidy habits and puts all tools and materials out of the way at the end of the day.   Call me if you want his name.  It’s not Chaos.

chaos wiredChaos –Big “C” chaos–moved in when we removed everything from the bathrooms, temporarily to live forever in those plastic totes.  For a while, every shower taken began with “Do you know where….”   Seek and ye shall find has become one of my favorite scripture verses.  Unable to stand a little chaos,  and trying to create a small space of order, I reorganized the entryway closet, a project long overdue.  More plastic storage crates.  Even more “Do you know where….” plaintive laments.  Creating organized space does not create an organized people to inhabit them

Still, these are modest demons.  Still, I persisted in the notion that I was keeping them well controlled.  I had no idea how hard it could be on one’s back to keep even a tiny chaos monster in check.   Physical therapy.  Steroid epidurals.  Still, I could point and command the ship from the prow.  So I thought.  The household natives did not share my newfound religion of decency and good order.

The refrigerator has been serving us notice for several years now.  After months of saving our petty cash we were ready to go refrigerator shopping.  More decency and good order stirred in my veins.  The refrigerator we first chose was 1/2 inch wider than the space its predecessor occupied.  And the next one.  And the next one.  It seems refrigerator girth has expanded just as the American waistline has in the past 25 years.  Ah! I  exclaim with  spiritual fervor.  I gave birth to the solution 22 years ago!   I called my son up from his basement retreat.  Indeed, he was the solution.  Soon the glassware cabinet, plastic ware cabinet, silverware drawer, and the useless cabinets over the refrigerator  (so THAT’s where the cups for pots de chocolate went!} were emptied and temporarily put to rest on the dining table.  Cabinets come down from the wall and from under the counter to be moved 2 inches starboard.

Vain creatures that we are, humans spend more and more effort to hide, conceal, and coverup the older we get.  We let more things slide as we convince ourselves it doesn’t matter as it once did.  Until one day….

Houses are not different.  Removing that cabinet revealed black mildew crawling up its back.  Why is the bottom of the cabinet wet?  Is that”u” shaped thing dripping?  Ummmm, it’s gushing now.   Unknown injuries had been festering behind the dishwasher and under the sink,  now to be revealed.    Another cabinet emptied.  A clothes hamper now pressed into service to receive its contents.  At this point we are veritably living out of plasticdoohatchies temporarily holding the contents of our lives.

It seemed as though we were about to restore order and make the world a better place. chaos monkey The more I worked to organize the little chaos monsters–the ones that seemed innocent and small enough to be contained–the more firmly The Chaos Monster took hold.  Now keys and phones were getting lost in plain sight because there is no such thing left as plain sight.  That’s how The Chaos Monster works.  We become unwitting accomplices of its tyranny.  All the while we believe we are gaining strength and order, we are actually minions of  The Chaos Monster.

You think I’m being playful here, don’t you?  You think I’m just venting frustration in my typically wry and witty stlyle, right?

Maybe.  A little.  Not really .  Not at all, really. The Chaos Monster taking up residence in our house at the moment is the deceptively   sweet tempered pie eyed domestic breed.   At another residence, not too far, the Chaos Monster banded with its minions and a family is being torn apart, a confused child is trying to make sense of it all, in another finances are in ruin, in another trust has been shattered by a young person’s drug use….the list goes on.

The list really does go on.  All the way back to the beginning.  Yup.  Genesis 1:1.  The BIG inning.  It all begins with the null and void.  You know what a void space invites in our homes don’t you?  A clean desk, a clear countertop, an empty room….not for long.  Soon one little  “I’ll get to  that after…” becomes another and another until the chaos monster has claimed that space.

God was alone with the Null and Void.  The tohu rubohu.   The Genesis 1 Creation Story begins with God’s cohabitation with The Chaos Monster.  One day, God said “Enough of this!”   The Chaos Monster isn’t good company, and no, it isn’t better than nothing.  God rolled up sleeves and started to put things in Order.   Firmament goes up here!  Make way waters of the deeps for land to rise up!  Sun here, moon there!  Now take turns you two! And over here, in this corner?  Let’s plan a garden.  Then the Chaos Monster invented weeds.  Not that the Chaos Monster has any power to create, not like God.  The Chaos Monster can only invent from what is already there.  God created riotous, wonderful, awe inspiring plants and bugs and animals and set them in order and balance in the garden.   It took a Chaos Monster to take what God declared good and adulterate it into The Undesireable.  One person’s rose is another person’s weed.    That’s how The Chaos Monster got a toe in the door.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the caveat.  Adam and Eve wanted to understand as God understands, but without the infinite wisdom, love and mercy with which God understands.  In their hands, what God declared good became adulterated, like the vile misplaced ingredient that ruins the whole dish that had been good –not just good enough, but gooooood.   

chaos treeThe Chaos Monster runs a muck.   Adam and Eve are displaced from the garden.  God’s word to them sounds like  the terms of their punishment.  Adam will now work the land by the sweat of his brow.  Thorns and thistles will bedevil him.  They still bedevil me, no matter how many times I pull them and spray them with vile chemicals.  Eve will suffer pain in child birth, yet still turn to the arms of her husband for comfort and love–no matter what names she called him or threats she made against him in the delivery room.

But wait.  What if……. these aren’t exactly terms of punishment, but a description of promise?  The Chaos Monster will not regain control of the universe, God remains God.  Now God enlists Adam and Eve as partners in containing the power of Chaos.  Promise or threat?     We can, by our choices and labors, restore Chaos to its boundaries.  That’s what the commandments promise.  This labor is not without price:  sweat, sting of thistle, sore muscles and heart break.  We get to share even in God’s broken heart.  Birth is not without pain.  We get to share even in the risk God assumed when pushing creation through the birth canal.  Yet for all that pain, we will still turn to one another for comfort, intimacy, yes, even the sex that started all of this.

Jesus’ death is the Chaos monster run absolutely a muck.  We see these times:  the slaughter of the Nazi concentration camps, violence in Sudan, Nigeria, Argentina, and down the street where a twelve year old shot and killed his baby sister.  There will always be times when the Chaos monster escapes the boundaries of the sea.  We have been given a heart that can be as broken as God’s own heart.  We have been given the courage to labor among the thistles and with sweat pouring down our brows, so that even at cost to ourselves we share in God’s  work to contain the Chaos monster so that good creation can rise up.  We have been given the pain of birthing God’s vision for this good creation, along with the danger of losing our own lives and selves in order to bring it about.  Talk to those who shared the pain of bringing civil rights to both women and African Americans and now, even LGBT people.  *Now I know some will argue that being LGBT is NOT God’s vision for a good creation, but don’t forget, some also use the argument of “order of creation” in order to explain why a woman has to lie on the bottom, among other things.   I think the Chaos Monster is at its sneaky best when maligning and adulterating God’s word for “Gooooood.”

There’s one more card to be played at the foot of the cross, and it is in God’s hand and not ours.  Jesus emerges from the tomb, and God gives birth to creation again.   Chaos is now firmly restored to its banks.  We are full partners in this enterprise, and we will not die but live.  Nothing in life or death will separate us from the love of God.  That’s the promise threatened in Genesis 3.  We will know the heart of God, share the labors of God, and live partnered to God in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in joy and in sorrow, and not even death can part.

*=topic of a different conversation.  Maybe.


About Pastor Betsy Williams

I am a mom. And a wife. And a Friend. And a homeowner. And a dog ...uh....owner? Actually make that two dogs. Two kids. One husband. I'm an ELCA Lutheran pastor of a beautiful downtown church. I am the third senior pastor in a century, so my 10-12 years here may feel like an interim to some of the folks here. Recently I have had no spare time. In my spare time in the future, my imagination inhabits a novel I am writing, The Funeral Preacher. My primary blog is a personal reflection on the Revised Common Lectionary...mostly: "Not All Who Wander are Lost." A few years ago I was on a team of writers who produced a little book for Augsburg Fortress in the Washed and Welcome series called "Living the Promises." It's 101 ideas for helping parents and godparents nurture their children in the faith of their baptism. I am developing another blog, more about worship at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Newark, Ohio and including a summary of the past week's preaching. Otherwise, I imagine myself to be a musician, liturgical artist, cook in a five star restaurant where the patrons keep ordering chicken nuggets, but never a bottle washer. I know how to delegate and share.
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