When God wanted to bring order out of chaos and create the universe, He spoke, “Let there be light!” When He wanted to bring a once-and-for-all solution to the problem of fallen humanity, He spoke grace and truth in Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah said of Christ,
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace [shalom] was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5
If God had stopped at redeeming us, if He had only covered our sin and opened the door of Heaven just wide enough for us to squeeze in by the skin of our teeth, it would have been enough. But God is so gracious that He went way beyond the bare minimum. He wants us to be agents of His message on this earth, not only through the words we speak, but also through the lives we live. So in addition to His marvelous redemption, He returned to us what was lost in Eden — the gift of shalom.
But life doesn’t feel like that often, does it?
When life feels chaotic, our attempts to reclaim order and wholeness usually start with something external. I used to have a little ritual I turned to when my world felt like it was spinning out of control. I packed my laptop into the car and drove to Office Max, where I bought a brand new, undefiled calendar. Then I drove to the nearest Starbucks and drank my body weight in caffeine while I made lists of every single thing in my life — every project, every deadline, every relationship, important dates, upcoming projects, possible projects, my exercise plan, my diet plan. I turned my whole life into lists and plotted it onto an organizational grid.
For a few weeks, my little life grid made me feel better. It was nice to see all the puzzle pieces neatly arranged into categories. It looked beautiful on paper. Simple. Elegant. Clean. Like living in some kind of Apple® Store universe. But real life is nothing like that, and real life is where I really live. It’s anything but simple, elegant, and clean, and nothing like an Apple Store. It’s usually more like Wal-Mart — complicated, awkward, and messy. (No disrespect, Wal-Mart. I love your butter rotisserie chicken. It has saved family dinner on many a night.)
Real life is oblivious to my master plan and project timelines.
My kids, for example, actually have the nerve to get sick on the very day I have a curriculum deadline. Kids, really? You couldn’t wait one more day to get a cold? Tomorrow would have been a perfect day to stay home!
My friends’ babies have the audacity to be born days before their due dates. Hello, little baby. Don’t you realize I have you penciled in for Thursday? This is most inconvenient.
My husband has the gall to disrupt my schedule by whisking me away on a surprise overnighter to the beach. Hon, date night is not until Friday. Didn’t you look at the master calendar? So inconsiderate.
My life plan was getting in the way of actually living my life.
If you are cringing a little bit on the inside about how dysfunctional all this sounds, it’s okay. It is dysfunctional. Most people see being organized as a strength — and it is — but any overused strength turns into a weakness. I was using my organizational gifts to put my outer world in order when the real problem was with my inner world. You see, disorder on the outside is almost always a reflection of disorder on the inside. My outer world kept getting out of control because my inner world was out of order.
Jesus wasn’t just blowing off steam when He told the Pharisees,
First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. – Matthew 23:26
Like me, the Pharisees were trying to fix an inner problem with outward performance. They were trying to make up for the brokenness and dysfunction in their hearts by overperforming acts of religious piety. I was trying to make up for my self-doubt and fear of failure by overperforming… everything. I finally learned that I couldn’t fix what’s wrong on the inside by addressing only what was wrong on the outside.
That’s why time management systems, spiritual disciplines, and health plans aren’t enough — you won’t bring long-term order to your outer world until there is order in your inner world.
Watch the Rhythms of Grace Video
Excerpted with permission from Rhythms of Grace: Discovering God’s Tempo For Your Life by Kerri Weems, copyright Zondervan, 2014.
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Did you start to squirm reading this as I did? Chaos – check! Overperfoming – bingo! Managing and bringing order chaos can seem absolutely overwhelming whether you have a house full of kids, work from your home or a cubicle, take care of ailing parents or relatives, volunteer in your Church or community, or any of the other many hats we women wear on a day-to-day basis! I personally relate with walking into Staples with great determination to reign in the chaos by force and a cart-full of office supplies. But, God wants us to live and walk in the amazing gift of His shalom (peace — See John 14:27)! He longs to see us rest in Him. Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear about your journey towards shalom! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full