I started 2016 with a prayer penned in my journal “Shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.” It’s a beautiful and poetic line from The Message (Psalm 51:7-15). Instead of doing a One Word for the year, I claimed this as my phrase. Looking back, I realize I had absolutely no idea how God would answer the prayer.
My answers would’ve been something along the lines of a more organized way to meal plan, a stream-lined method for helping the boys with their homework, or a more efficient way to grocery shop. But God always looks beyond the apparent and goes for the heart of the issue.
God’s answer to creating something new in my life amidst perceived chaos was to give me more chaos. So much so, I became overwhelmed with situation after situation—pushed to the edge of myself until I finally had to surrender my kingdom and let Him come in and disassemble everything.
Like my boys and their Lego creations, when I let them leave the stuff out for a few weeks, they don’t want to go in their room and play because there’s no space among the cluttered, dusty, built-then-forgotten, yet carefully guarded scenes. Sometimes they voluntarily take their creations apart and start over, but often it’s up to me—an outside force—to give them a fresh start. This makes room for new creation.
The chaos of 2016 continued all the way into December as we sold our belongings we’d painstakingly collected over the years in China, packed our bags to move to Texas for a sabbatical. It may look like madness on the outside, but God’s fingerprints are all over it. We’re due for a break and we’re welcoming it with open arms, but it’s still painful to leave the place we’ve called home for so long.
Through the gift of chaos, God is creating room in my heart and life for something new, so I’m not quite ready to move away from this phase. I’m still expecting him to bring about something good from the nothingness which is my lack of plan or next solid career move. Maybe if there’s nothing there for Him to work with, I can be sure the next thing that comes along is created by Him and not by me.
As for 2017, I don’t dare presume to know how He’ll answer, but I’m compelled to pray. I’m carefully contemplating yet hesitant to claim a new word, but maybe it’s Sanctuary. As we go forward to the next chapter of our lives, I’m reminded that even as I disassembled our apartment, the once organized pieces of my life heaped up into piles of messiness all around me, I remember God is my sanctuary, a place to run for refuge.
As we walked out of our apartment for the last time as a family, carrying our overnight bags and trekking through the December snow-sludge to a hotel for our final night in China, I flippantly remarked, “I feel like a hobo!”
“What’s a hobo?” my son asked.
“Uh . . . it’s a person who carries everything they own with them because they don’t have a home . . . and let’s not say hobo. It’s not a nice word.”
Later in the evening I remembered what I had forgotten in the heat of the moment. God is my home.
Thankfully, it came up again the next day on the way to the airport as one of the boys remarked, “Hey! We don’t have a home!”
I had the presence of mind this time to remind us all we do indeed have a home. Not a “one day we’ll be home in heaven” sort of deal, but a “right now, I’m technically homeless but I know the only place I can truly take refuge in this world is in God’s presence” kind of thing. And that reality settles deeper into my heart than it ever has before as I’m between two places I once called home.
With all of this in mind, here’s my reflective prayer looking back on 2016 and my longing for 2017:
“God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!” (Psalm 51: 7-15, The Message Translation)
“I’ll leave a core of people among you who are poor in spirit—what’s left of Israel that’s really Israel. They’ll make their home in God. This core holy people will not do wrong. They won’t lie, won’t use words to flatter or seduce. Content with who they are and where they are, unanxious, they’ll live at peace.” (Zephaniah 3:9-13, The Message Translation)
Have you endured a season of chaos which brought forth a new season?
Have you deeply embraced the truth that your home is in God? How has this changed your situation or perspective?