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Cultivating New Order in a Chaotic Time

As we listened to Genesis 1 on an audio Bible last week while piecing together a puzzle, my son remarked, “It’s saying the same thing over and over.” He was referring, of course, to the repeated line at the end of each day of creation, “And there was evening, and there was morning…”

“Well,” I responded, “That’s the refrain. The creation account is like poetry. There is order and rhythm to it.”

Since that interchange, I have been pondering the theme of order in the Genesis 1 creation account. The Bible opens with a picture of darkness and chaos: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” From His position above the chaos, God begins to carve out order, separating light from darkness, water from sky, land from water. Vegetation is then created in an orderly way, with each plant consistently reproducing its own kind. Stars are created, which bring order to time: “let them serve as signs to mark sacred times and days and years” (Gen. 1: 14). Animals are created which, like plants, reproduce their own kind in an orderly fashion.

And lastly, comes man and woman, made in the very image of this order-creating God.

It may be helpful to meditate on our role as image-bearer of an orderly God as we face the chaos of these uncertain times. For most of us, the coronavirus has upended the comfortable order around which our lives were built: the order of the workweek, the order of school schedules, the order of cultural markers such as Spring Break and March Madness. Many of these orderly structures of time governed our life without us even consciously choosing them, and now they have all fallen away. In their place, we simply have time stretching out before us, threatening to veer our lives into chaos.

Rather than be disoriented or frightened by this lack of order, I propose that we each seize the mantle of our role as image-bearer and embrace this opportunity to create new order in our days, order that revolves not around the secular workweek or commercial holidays or culturally-encouraged sports craziness, but around the true, the good, and the beautiful.

We long for this order, and now we get to build it ourselves, in our own homes and lives.

These last few weeks, our family has been trying to build rhythms of order around our space and time. In the physical space where we now find ourselves day in and day out, we have adopted a simple daily cleaning schedule to combat the natural decay that happens when humans constantly occupy a place. Having a weekly cleaning routing—Monday mop, Tuesday toilets, etc—not only brings order to our space but to my own mind. Our cleaning schedule itself is a barrier to the mental disorder that would cause me to spend my days scrubbing the same thing over and over: the schedule says, “This far you may come and no farther.” Monday is for mopping and no other day. In that way, it brings both order to my home and peace to my mind.

In addition to our space, every family member is finding that their time needs ordered, and we are embracing the challenge in different ways. My daughter brings order to her days through morning baking. She has decided that morning means breakfast, and breakfast means baked goods, so each morning, she makes muffins of some kind or maybe a crumb cake. My son has begun to fill his school breaks with jigsaw puzzles and playing Mozart on the piano, two orderly activities that seem to bring him peace. My husband has found a workspace and carved out a simple schedule to work from home. Personally, I have found that fixed-hour prayer brings a beautiful order to each day. The Morning Office, Midday Office, Vespers, and Compline help orient my mind around God’s kingdom and purposes in a whole new way.

As a family, we now have the chance to build an orderly life around our beliefs about what is most important. For us, this means morning devotionals, purposeful mealtimes, evening walks together, each of which brings an orderly sense of community to our days. We have also found new ways to separate our weekdays from the weekend, and Sunday from all other days. Our methods of order may look different from yours, but the opportunity is the same. As creatures formed by a God who brings order, we now have more freedom than ever to bring our own order to the days He has given us. We have a chance to “number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

One beautiful opportunity of embracing order as Christians is Holy Week, which has passed for the Western Church, but which our Eastern friends are still in the midst of. I did not grow up in a tradition that observed the liturgical calendar in any way; indeed, I have spent much of my life suspicious of it as an unnecessary source of legalism. Over the past several years, however, I have come to see the liturgical calendar not as a source of legalism, but a source of discipleship. By letting the church organize my year, I start to free my mind from the teachings of culture’s calendar, which organizes time around commercial holidays and sporting events. By following the church’s calendar, I instead organize time around the life of Christ. And the biggest event of the liturgical calendar is Holy Week. What an opportunity to bring order to our days!

In the year of our Lord 2020, Holy Week and Easter is different. There are no physical gatherings to worship, no pastels and pretty dresses, no community egg hunts. However, the chance to fix our hearts and minds on Christ’s final week, on His death, and on His resurrection remains. In our homes and with our families, we can order our days this week by meditating on these events along with the rest of the body of Christ. We can find ways to mark the time with our own meaningful traditions.

And in doing so, we will bring an order to our lives, just as God brings order to creation. We can live each week as His image-bearers, sending faint but true echoes of His ordering of the first week. And we can embrace these uncertain times, not fearfully, but as an opportunity to let God’s truths order our days.

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