How many times have you heard or said, “I only wish things could return to normal.” As if there was such a time. As if there is such a thing as normal.
Yesterday I mistimed my elevator ride from the 19th-floor to the basement, meaning instead of a peaceful quiet solitary ride all the way down we stopped four times to take on people. And to be honest, there was one gentleman already inside the elevator when I got in, so he had to stop five times. I interrupted his day.
If you hear someone joke that “no one in elevators talks to each other they just stare at the numbers” you are listening to a refugee from the 1990s. Nowadays everyone looks at their phone. Or, in the case of my building, they look out the elevator window to see what sort of weather awaits us outside.
But yesterday was different. For some reason, the elevator passengers started talking about how much they could’ve accomplished during the day if it weren’t for the interruptions. It was true for me as well. I had a long term study I hoped to make progress with, a temporary gas compressor installation south of Ozona and were we really making any money on the project, but I received a couple of emails from the home office that changed my day and my priority list. I didn’t get any work done on my original project.
But as I listened to the playful complaining on the elevator it occurred to me that the disruptions I worked on were more important, and solving them was more fruitful to the company. On my long trek to the parking garage I wondered: If it weren’t for interruptions would I even accomplish anything of significance?
Leonard Sweet wrote, “We should prize chaos more than order. Only chaos brings forth new ideas, new experiences, and new energies, because only chaos is open and receiving, ready for change.” (What Matters Most)
One of my favorite chapters from the Bible is Mark 5, and it tells about a series of interruptions woven together that made up Jesus’ day. Reading that chapter is a reminder that if it weren’t for interruptions we wouldn’t know much about Jesus actual ministry with people. The gospel writers didn’t write about day-to-day teaching, but wrote about the chaos that followed Jesus everywhere he went.
It has become a favorite phrase of mine, that “change adds energy,” and I rattle it off as if I have always known the truth of it, but it has taken most of my life to learn to stop resisting sudden changes to my perfect life plans.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t wallow in chaos. I don’t seek messes and I certainly don’t plan my life that way. In fact, I am always trying to sort through the chaos and find meaning, beat down the mess to find the true story, untangle the situations to locate the lesson that will help us all find our way through.
I also know that constant chaos is debilitating and draining. Even deadening. So we should find places and times for peace and rest if we want our lives to be effective.
It is in those moments of change, the transitions, the chaos, when the danger of making a mistake is the greatest, that we depend, finally, on God. During normal times, whatever that really means, there is no future. There is only more of the same old thing. The future hides in transition. Hopes dwells in the chaos.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32