18 Mar Order, Disorder, Reorder
The title for this blog comes from the work of Richard Rohr who communicates powerful spiritual truths in ways that are easy to grasp. The process of spiritual growth often requires a period in which we move out from a comfortable sense of order into the discomfort and confusion of disorder, before the period of disorder is resolved into a new and more life-giving reorder. As we look back over our lives, we can see this pattern repeated time-and-again. It is no accident that during times of profound disruption, many people instinctively turn to the church and our biblical heritage for comfort and wisdom, because our tradition is steeped in the reassurance of this pattern of order, disorder and reorder. We have been told in countless biblical stories that the disorder we are now experiencing will not be the final word. There will be a new order to be found on the other side.
Our temptation is to try to rush the process, to move out of the anxiety which comes in a time of disorder into the new order as quickly as possible. And because we try to rush the process and avoid the painful work of being present to and curious about the disorder, we usually end up returning to the previous framework of order instead of seeking to create a genuinely new framework of reorder. We seek to return to the familiar past instead of working to co-create with God a new future which more closely aligns with the values and priorities of God.
God, in the biblical narrative, has constantly been making covenants with people with the intention of manifesting through these covenants new possibilities and commitments for humanity. God called Abraham and Sarah to leave their past behind and to follow God’s dream of blessing and being a blessing for others. God called Moses to respond to the cries of the oppressed Hebrew people and to lead them into a new life of freedom and faithfulness to God and each other. God called the judges to respond to periods of turmoil and to lead the people back to faithfulness to the covenant and to deliverance from suffering. God called David to model faithfulness in leadership. God called prophets to remind the people of the life they were called to and to confront them with their failings. God sent Jesus to show us what true humanity looks like.
We have yet to truly understand the radical nature of God’s call, to embrace the suffering of our journey and to die to our visions for life, in order to live into God’s vision for us. We might understand the entirety of the human journey as our attempt to deal with disruption by seeking to return again to our norms for order, envisioned by human kingdoms, instead of letting go of our desires for control and embracing the reorder offered to us by God, the reorder of God’s ways that Jesus called the kingdom of God.
In the past week or so, our American culture has begun to wake up to the reality that we have entered into a period of profound disruption. All aspects of our collective life are shutting down. Travel, sports, entertainment, museums, schools, restaurants, bars, civic organizations, places of worship. In a desperate attempt to delay the spread of this virus, we are practicing social isolation in order to prevent our health-care system from being overwhelmed. Our healthy economy has taken residence in ICU. Grocery stores have been raided and sales of guns and ammunition have soared, as people prepare for some apocalyptic sequence of events beyond our control. Our government is talking of pumping a trillion dollars into the systems of the economy and into the hands of ordinary people in order to mitigate the damage. Normal order is gone, and we are all breathlessly waiting for some new order to return.
I am praying for a limiting of the suffering which is upon us, but, clearly, pain, uncertainty and fear are already here. My church, like thousands around our country, is going virtual with worship and all meetings and gatherings, or cancelling altogether. More and more people will operate virtually in many fields of human interaction. Undoubtedly, this will change us. We may all be practicing the new ways of communicating and conducting our lives which will soon become the new norms.
At least, temporarily, we may be softening our ideological differences and coming to a new recognition of our inter-relatedness and our irreducible bonds to each other. This pandemic may signal a shift in our consciousness toward one which truly sees the global nature of our earth community, even as we simultaneously move toward a recognition of the primacy of our local networks for dealing with many of our challenges. As I continue to turn to the Benedictine heritage of western spirituality, I am struck by its relevance for our needs. Its emphasis on mutual service in community, the care for all and especially the young and the elderly and the most vulnerable among us, the commitment to seeing Christ is each one, and the intention of caring for creation and all material possessions as if they were the sacred vessels for Communion. Will one consequence of this pandemic be an awakening to the precious quality of this life we have taken for granted in our castaway culture? Will it be an awakening to the spiritual dimensions of depth and beauty all around us?
Many of us are being forced to slow down and to stay at home. Instead of complaining of boredom or wasting time with trivial entertainments, we might consider using our time to engage in tested spiritual practices and exploring the vast spiritual treasures of our tradition. The gift in any time of disruption is to be led once again to our ancient sources of wisdom and to discover again the hidden vitality which we already have at our disposal. In these sources, we will find all that we need to help create, out of our chaos, the new order our world desperately needs.