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Chaos Produces Character

Chaos Produces Character

It’s as if my body knows the alarm is about to go off, so I wake up a few minutes early to stress out in anticipation. Soothing chimes attempt to welcome the morning. Oh yes, there it is.

Before I’ve even moved a muscle, my heart starts racing, and chaotic thoughts start filling my mind: Did we remember to call the contractor back? Oh no, I forgot to transfer the clothes to the dryer last night. What’s for dinner tonight? We can’t eat out again — we’re already blowing the budget this week. What can we defrost now that will be ready tonight? And what about the conversation we never finished last week? I feel like a bad mom. I need a spa day. But I’m so behind on everything. Wait — what are we going to do about school for the kids next year? And should we consider moving? They say there are good schools in Tennessee. And community. I wish I had good friends here — people who really knew me. Oh, that new family is coming over for dinner tomorrow — new friends? Maybe. Hope it’s not awkward. Ugh, the kids are already up, and I’m already running late. Oh, I still haven’t scheduled that mammogram or figured out what to do about the roof that needs fixing. I pull back the sheets and take a deep breath.

Why can’t everything just be... uncomplicated?

  • There’s an imaginary story I like to tell myself, and it goes something like this: a stressed-out girl finally gets her life in order, figures out a long-term plan, sticks to the plan, the world doesn’t fall apart, and she nails it at life. The end.

Do you have a similar story you like to tell yourself? Maybe yours has a few more plot twists, but my guess is that your imaginary story has the same through line as mine: control your life now to avoid the possibility of pain later.

Maybe your hang-up isn’t that you want more purpose and more fulfillment in your life. Maybe you have too much on your plate to begin with. If restlessness is a desire for more, perhaps trying to control everything is a longing for less.

Less noise, less pressure, less uncertainty, less pain.

We imagine that if we could just get on top of our lists, figure out our unknowns, decrease our stressors, and calm our chaos, we would somehow feel at peace.

Can having a plan be a love language? Because I think it’s mine. It’s how I feel most loved, and it’s also how I try to show love. I love being one step ahead of any disaster. One step ahead of another’s needs. I show you that I love you by thinking ahead and having a plan, so you don’t have to. (That, and by feeding you like an Asian mom: Are you feeling sad? I’ll make you a bowl of noodles. You’re making a big decision? You’ll think more clearly after some dumplings. By the way, there are always extra servings of dinner at the Simonses’ casita.)

A plan signals that things are calm and stable, with no surprises. That’s how I like it.

But as you know, having a plan is a close cousin to a desire for control, and I tend to be a big fan of that too. A steady timeline, knowing exactly which route to take for maximum efficiency, following through as expected, making a plan and sticking to the plan, getting things right so nothing ever feels out of control... these things all spell L.O.V.E. to me. I’m only slightly kidding. (Troy knows I’m totally not kidding.)

My buddy Caleb, who’s worked with me on many projects, likes to tease me by describing me as someone who enjoys “preparing to prepare.” In other words, I tend to act as if it’s never too early to start planning and that we can never be over-prepared to execute a plan.

Overpreparing always seems foolproof... until my plans fail, circumstances out of my control affect my plan, or I can’t figure out how to make order of the chaos of my life. Perhaps you also are an overplanning, need-to-know-all-variables control freak. (I hope I’m not the only one.) But the truth is, all the planning in the world can’t fully prepare you for loss, pain, disappointment, or the plot twists in your life.

I planned to love motherhood but found myself struggling with the mundane everydayness of the little years.

I planned to never stop dreaming and then found myself apathetic about my purpose and my giftings when opportunities didn’t pan out.

I planned to use my twenties preparing for ministry, my thirties for building ministry, and my forties for expanding in ministry but found that all of those seasons were going to be flipped around.

I planned to grow steadily as a Christ follower through hard seasons and then found myself withdrawn and distant from the Lord when I couldn’t make sense of my feelings.

When I look back, I can see now that my idea of planning was less rooted in active and deliberate choices and more based on my expectation that things would unfold as I hoped. You see,

our plans can convince us that we’re more in control of our lives than we actually are.

We’re tempted to believe that if we can create some sense of certainty in our lives and understand the plan, then we will experience peace instead of chaos.

With this perspective, it’s no wonder we struggle with so much fear and anxiety! Our best-laid plans are but an attempt to secure the confidence, predictability, and settledness we long for in a chaotic world. But what if the uncertainty and chaos we’re constantly trying to eliminate are purposeful, even if it drives us crazy? 

Watch the Video

Excerpted with permission from Now and Not Yet by Ruth Chow Simons, copyright Ruth Chow Simons.

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Your Turn

Ruth is speaking my language here! How about you? I’m a plan-ahead-er who feels much calmer when I know how things are going to go. Unfortunately, that goes awry… often! What if God is actually using the crazy chaos to shape and grow us? What if it’s for our good? Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full