In June, 2015 I wrote a piece on “embracing the chaos” in our lives. I thought, given the past year, it might be interesting/helpful to revisit the topic.

A few years back I was mentoring a young man from our church.  He was a senior in college and full of questions and anxiety about his future.  As he went on about going to seminary, possibly getting married, wondering where God wanted him and where he would locate, I finally interrupted him and said, BREATHE!  He stopped, took a deep breath and then looked at me.  For several seconds I sat in silence with him, allowing the quiet to wash over him and all the ‘noise’ he had in his head.

Then I said, “Brandon, learn to embrace the chaos in your life.”  He thought I was crazy, but as he moved forward in the years since that time he acknowledged that was good advice.  For some, ‘chaos’ (complete disorder and confusion) may be too extreme a term to describe the state of their lives.  For others, it may not be descriptive enough.

Why is it important for us to ‘embrace the chaos?’  It is important for the same reason that it is important to embrace the ‘now’ in our lives…because this is the moment we have been given – nothing more, nothing less.  I have spent way too much energy in my life trying to establish some security, some pattern that was comfortable, some predictability.  To what end?   Life teaches us, sometimes quite harshly, that it is all temporary.  We have all lost friends and loved ones who were gone in a moment, or got sick and then were gone.  They had spent a lifetime ‘building’ or ‘protecting what they built,’ and now it was gone, or they were.

The pandemic has taught us that…again. In addition, my son and daughter-in-law and their three kids lost their duplex to a fire July 4, 2020. They have been living with us since. There has been almost daily chaos, tons of uncertainty, sense of loss, with no idea of when life would return to ‘normal.’

‘Embracing the chaos’ is not only about embracing the moment, but it is also about having the trust and the confidence that we will ‘figure out’ the decision(s) we need to make, or the problems we need to solve at the time we most need to do so, or we won’t, and we will find a different path.  That understanding allows us to ‘lean’ into the moment and understand that life is full of ‘chaotic’ moments, moments that give us pause and take our breath away because of their tragedy (the death of someone we loved, the loss of most of our worldly possessions), or they are moments that give us joy and take our breath away (the birth of a child, the opening of tulip in early Spring).

From the stories I have witnessed, read, heard, and lived, 2020 represented chaos in spades for thousands, if not millions of people. When I wrote this in June of 2015 my father’s health and his living arrangements, sale of his house, etc. were at the top of my chaos. In those moments of chaos, I worried about the decisions I would make, and the mistakes I would make. What I learned in the moment – there were people to help answer questions, to guide the decisions, and to solve the problems.  I also learned that it was about showing up in those moments trusting in yourself and that there will be others to help you, and if your belief permits, God to bring you through.

I re-learned another lesson since 2015. There is nothing permanent. Nothing. Dad died in April of 2017. My child’s family lost most of his worldly possessions in July, 2020. There was nothing more precious that they didn’t lose than their lives nor their children’s lives. The pandemic taught us more about loss – jobs, possessions, health, and in far too many cases life. When we are young we don’t spend much time thinking about things not being permanent. Eventually, all of us face that reality.

Our lives are full of events that give us joy, and those that represent something horrific. Yet, we continue to learn that there isn’t anything permanent. What we are afforded are a series of events, many to be savored, some to be endured. We don’t always choose the events that come our way. We do choose how we will respond. I can tell you that for all of our family last summer, the fire took our breath away – not only for what it represented, but also for what it could have represented, an unspeakable tragedy.

We learned what is valuable in our lives. We learned how to cope, hope, and live with chaos a day at a time. In all the ‘chaotic’ moments of our lives we can build our capacity.  This is not only the capacity of what we know and can do, but it is building the capacity of who we choose to become through these moments.

Some of us have built extensive ‘webs of worry’ as our way to react to our chaos.  Does that work for you?  Are you getting what you want?  In our heart of hearts most of us would answer “no,” but we know no other way.  My encouragement is to choose something different.  A different way of thinking about your ‘chaos.’ I have come to see these moments in my life as just the nature of life and this moment, these moments, are my turn. Sometimes, I will admit that all I am doing is trying to ‘endure’ those moments. At other times, I see these moments as an opportunity of turning that which is difficult into that which is life changing.  It’s not complex, just difficult.

We are coming out of a time of great challenge, not just as individuals, but as humans. For a time it seemed like I/we were ‘surrounded’ by chaos. It was hard, challenging, at times begging me/us to say out of frustration, “When will this all end?!” In the middle we can have trouble finding our hope. As we begin to emerge we can see more light, more hope. We can also see – Nothing is permanent.

What is the most important choice you need to make in your ‘now’ moment(s) that will enhance who you are, who you are becoming, and your life experience?

As I reflect over our children living with us for the past 10 months, I am most thankful that we had a place for all of them to come and live. They will move into a new home by the end of this month. There will be relief for all of us, celebration. For me, there will be a gratefulness for the time we have shared, and more than one tear from time to time that the house is so quiet. Granted, not right away!

To a better you…