As we finish up the summer, and prep for the fall, I’ve been thinking a lot about order and chaos. I am, by nature, rather orderly. I like to do one thing at a time, I like check-lists with all the boxes checked and have no less than 3 calendars in my office.
My life, by its nature, is rather chaotic. My career choice requires a level of spontaneity, flexibility, and crisis-response that cannot always be calendared or check-listed. I’ve spent a lot of my life learning and relearning to build structures and systems that I then have to hold rather loosely.
This weekend, I’ll be teaching about Joseph, in particular, the second half of the Joseph story, picking up with him interpreting dreams in prison all the way through Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers. The story captures a fair amount of the tension between chaos and order that I’ve been wrestling with. In the four dreams that Joseph interprets, and Joseph’s reaction to them, there is clean, clear, order. Everything in the dream (3 baskets of bread, 3 bunches of grapes, 7 cows, 7 ears of corn) has a specific meaning and everything comes true in the dreams exactly as predicted. In response to Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph is decisive, level-headed, and confident. His confidence and clarity helps him save all of Egypt and Canaan from a famine.
And then his family arrives. The character of the story becomes almost unrecognizable, as does the character of Joseph. He’s indecisive, cruel, he changes his mind frequently and keeps having emotional outbursts. His clean, clear, orderly life is made messy, unclear, and chaotic by his attempts to navigate a relationship with his dysfunctional family.
And people say the Old Testament isn’t relevant.
Eventually, through all the mess and chaos, Joseph is able to show love to his brothers, forgive them, and testify that God was at work in this story, both in the orderly and chaotic parts. I find myself landing on the same strange truth: that for all of my preference for clean, clear, orderly acts of God, all of my desire for a clean cause and effect line, and checked boxes, God is equally present in the chaotic, disordered parts of life. God works through the mess and calls us to love, grace, and to recognize God’s work in the midst of the chaos that so frequently interrupts our attempts at clean, clear and orderly lives.
As we look to fall, and start to fill in our calendars and buy our school supplies, I hope we are able to love and show grace both in those places where it all lines up, and those places where it all falls apart, and celebrate God’s presence in all of it!