I am a pretty orderly person. My clothes hang neatly in my closet. My underwear is carefully folded in my dresser drawers. The folders in my file cabinets are clearly labeled. And I clean my rooms on a fairly regular basis. (The operative word there is “fairly.”) But I am no neat freak. In fact, I’m one who never liked the maxim: “Order is heaven’s first law.” (Those words were penned by Alexander Pope in An Essay on Man.)
I don’t like that quote for two main reasons. First, I believe there are far more important things in heaven (and on earth!) than order. What kind of things? People… love… freedom… mercy… forgiveness… creativity… fun… awe… to name a few. And secondly, too much order can lead to death. Historically, for example, the most tyrannical governments tend to be the most orderly. I remember my Old Testament professor, Father Demetrius Dumm, OSB, saying, “All the trains ran on time in Pharaoh’s Egypt.” All the trains ran on time in Nazi Germany too. Despotism tends to be more orderly than, for example, Democracy.
So when life seems chaotic—on a personal, national, or global level—we sometimes long for more order. Such longings are understandable. But we must never sacrifice other more important values just to insure more order.
In this regard, we can learn from Jesus. Jesus’ life was far from orderly. He was born of poor parents in a stable. Shortly after his birth, his parents were forced to flee with him into a foreign land because of Herod’s drastic means to insure the order of his rule. Jesus’ ministry had something of a serendipitous spirit. He taught those who came to hear him speak. He cured those brought to him or whom he happened to encounter along the way. He allowed his schedule to be interrupted, his plans to be changed. He never forced people to follow him or to accept his teachings. Instead he gently invited them. And finally he was put to death by a totalitarian regime who viewed him as a threat to their established order.
I was musing on these thoughts about order and I ended up writing this short prayer-poem. I call it “The Wildness of God’s Creative Love.”
I want to fix this situation. I want to tame this person.
I want to make things right or (at least) neater again.
As if order was the measure of Vitality, Goodness, and Righteousness.
After all, Genesis shows you bringing order out of chaos
Through the power of your spoken word: “Let there be…”
And, we are told, our first parents
were made in your image and likeness.
So, it’s easy for us to imagine Adam hoeing his straight little rows
Of beans, tomatoes, and cauliflower.
And we can picture Eve arranging her spice drawer
In alphabetical order, from allspice to za’atar.
But that’s our fantasy, our bias. It does not reflect your reality.
For how did the universe begin?
As a vast sea of exploding stars!
And the earth, in its infancy,
Was an orb of erupting volcanoes and torrential meteorites.
And so, order is not heaven’s first law.
Nor is neatness the hallmark of your modus operandi.
On the contrary, Wildness is. Exuberance is. And Sweet Surprise.
And so I pray: may I never forget
that beneath and within,
Between and around all things
there exists a life-giving untidiness,
A pleasureable disarray.
A charming unruliness—
All mere hints
Of the Wildness of your Ever Creating Love.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being messy and 10 being orderly) where do you put yourself? Are you happy or dissatisfied with where you are?
Have you ever let go of order for the sake of a higher value?
How do you experience God’s wild and reckless love in your life?
I found a song that seems to capture today’s theme. It’s called “Reckless Love” and is sung by Cory Asbury.
I welcome your responses to today’s reflection, poem, or song.