Adele Richards is an amateur parent of two exceedingly fabulous little girls. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away...
I was so embarrassed I couldn’t turn round.
I was on the ferry from Vancouver Island to Vancouver, a few years ago, on an exceptionally windy crossing.
The way the ship was designed meant the main indoor seating area looked out onto the outdoor viewing area via a magnificent panoramic window; giving you a direct view of anyone standing outside on the prow of the boat.
There was a group of older ladies standing outside, looking out to sea. What they didn’t know was the wind had whipped their dresses and skirts up to their ears. And the several hundred people inside had an astounding view of their ample underwear and majestic backsides.
After laughing heartily I decided (fool) to take a trip outside myself. I was wearing an ankle-length summer dress so I clutched the skirt tightly around me so that I didn’t suffer the same fate as the old-lady-knicker-display-team.
Pushing open the door to the deck, I struggled to walk into the wind but finally made it to the prow of the boat. Behind me were several hundred people looking in my direction from the safety of the interior. You can guess the rest. The wind whipped the dress out of my white-knuckled grip and before I knew it my skirt hemline was in my hairline. And let’s just say my underwear was considerably less modest than that modeled by the senior ladies.
The wind can make crazy things happen. And it’s a fact well known to teachers and pre-school and nursery staff: a windy day makes the kids act crazy as they run round the playground. More crazy than normal, I mean.
The wind is unsettling. It messes your hair up, gives your clothes a life of their own, and if you encounter a tornado or hurricane it can even hurl furniture, cows and houses around. Interesting then, isn’t it, that the Holy Spirit is likened to a wind; a wind that caused chaos when he visited Jesus’s friends who were waiting for a holy moment:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
They staggered around like drunks, speaking in languages they couldn’t speak and about 3,000 bystanders became Christians. It was holy chaos.
The description reminds me of the outpouring in Toronto; people falling under the power of the Holy Spirit, bodies rolling about on the carpet, tears spurting, snorts of laughter, shaking, rocking and rolling. Thousands of people lining up to get into church. Lives changed in the blink of an eye. Holy chaos. Brilliant!
And yet there is something deeply embedded in the human psyche that seeks to avoid chaos – holy or otherwise. We like our ducks in a row. We like our church chairs in a row, not kicked over by some demented man laughing till he cries. We like our lives ordered. We like our emotions, tidy, lined up, in order, behaving themselves.
"The first clue that you’re getting all shook up is
when you seriously over-react to minor events"
We don’t like feeling churned up, chaotic or out of control. We like to understand what’s happening. And that’s why we hate it when life seems to be unraveling. We feel all shook up when things aren’t going the way they should. We hold onto our skirts so they don’t blow up and reveal our interesting choice of underwear. Because it’s embarrassing to be weepy and angry and all out of sorts. It’s not very Christian, is it? So we fight the chaos, try to get life circumstances and our feelings back in the bottle and screw the lid on tight. But what if it’s a holy chaos? What if it’s God allowing us to get all shook up? Do we want to resist that?
God knows when it comes to our hearts, it’s necessary to get the bad stuff out so the light can reach all the way to the bottom. Our hearts are lakes. A lake can look beautifully calm on the surface yet have a whole heap of junk, old tyres, shopping carts and tin cans on the bottom. If you want to get rid of the junk you have to stir the waters and get the stuff to come up to the surface so you can skim it out. Maybe that’s why the angel stirred the waters of the pool of Bethesda prior to a healing. As a prophetic picture.
"This man lives inside us. Don’t you think he’s going to shake us up too?"
I used to work at the School of Ministry in Toronto; an inner healing environment where God was actively at work to get the rubbish out of lives. Something I noticed about inner healing was that it tends to get worse before it gets better. The first clue that you’re getting all shook up (or that the wind is blowing) is when you seriously over-react to minor events - someone looks at you a bit funny and it sends you into a furious rant or a downward spiral of depression. The next clue is that the wind doesn’t die down. It just gets windier till just about everything that happens from dawn till dusk adds insult to injury. Then just when it feels like you’re forever stuck in the dark night of the soul, the light dawns. Father (having rather cunningly gained your attention) reminds you of some hurt from the past that was being triggered by recent events. Suddenly all the discombobulation of late makes sense. You see what he’s been getting at and let it go. Somewhere from deep within, a shopping cart floats to the surface and is removed.
Jesus didn’t come to earth to make everything nicey nice. He was unpredictable, surprising, playful, angry, grief-stricken, confrontational. He set the cat among the religious pigeons by healing on the Sabbath. He shook everything that could be shaken. This man lives inside us. Don’t you think he’s going to shake us up too?
"Father’s not freaked out by mess, Jesus doesn’t have OCD"
And he might just allow some really rubbish circumstances to play a part in the shaking. (I’m not saying that he creates sickness, or pain, or fear. He doesn’t. He can’t. It’s not who he is.) But he is a bit like one of those children’s TV craft show presenters who uses 18 shoelaces and a paper cup to create a scale model of the Great Wall of China. He can use the little things to make big differences in your heart.
So next time your skirt blows up to your ears, ask him if it’s due to a holy or unholy chaos. Ask him why you’re reacting the way you are. Ask him if there’s a shopping cart in the bottom of your heart that he wants to dredge up. Because if it’s a holy chaos, you want to embrace what God is doing even when you don’t understand it. Because the end-product of a holy chaos is more life than you could ever imagine or create by keeping your ducks in a row. After all, Father’s not freaked out by mess, Jesus doesn’t have OCD, and the Holy Spirit certainly knows how to get the party started.