Loud grunts and shouts resounded from the back corner of the large room. A baby cried somewhere in front of us, and a clearly unhappy toddler voiced her anger from somewhere on the other side of the room. Meanwhile, the pastor didn’t halt for a moment. He prayed and introduced communion as if nothing was amiss and all was as it should be.
Perhaps that is the point: all was as it should be.
It was a crowded day in church, the first day of Advent. Little personal space existed for anyone, yet no one complained. No one turned to scowl at the offending sound-makers. We all know who they are. They’re there every week. They’re part of our congregation, a loved and treasured part of our community.
You see, our church welcomes people with special needs. One of our greeters smiles and offers unintelligible utterances as he hands us our bulletins each week. We have a buddy program for autistic and handicapped children. Parents who are over-stressed and over-worked can worship and rest knowing their children are loved and well-cared for. We also partner with a local home for special needs adults. Their van is always full and their seats always reserved.
We welcome families with no strings attached and no expectations of propriety. We’re all broken people with messy lives trying to grow and glorify God together. And that is as it should be.
That morning my mind raced, as it nearly always does. My thoughts cluttered with questions, tasks, responsibilities, things to be remembered, and things to be forgotten. I struggled to focus. I struggled to listen well. I wrestled with how to prove a point about some inconsequential argument that had nothing to do with the passage we were studying.
Then noises awakened me to what really matters and communion began.
Piano, guitar, and a violin joined efforts in an instrumental version of Hillsong’s “Oceans.”
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I praised God for the beauty of chaos. I sat surrounded by uncomfortable noises and let a single tear stain my sermon notes.
…trust without borders…
Take me deeper…
… my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I praised God for the beauty of chaos. I sat surrounded by uncomfortable noises and let a single tear stain my sermon notes.I remembered churches from my past, from years gone by. Most were different from our current faith community. They were orderly. Precise. Predictable. Quiet. Controlled. I remembered how pastors would chastise the mothers of crying babies from the pulpit, how ushers would lead them out of the sanctuary, how those with noisy tics or uncontrollable outbursts were encouraged to stay in a “special room” to prevent “distracting the worshippers.” I remembered all this and praised God for a church that understands grace and love and actively seeks to share both freely.
People should never be viewed as “distractions.” Distractions are those things that draw us away from God and His will. Distractions come in many forms, mostly in excess. I think of addictions to tv, work, news, social media…you name it. God’s will very clearly dictates we should love others and serve those in need. You can’t do either of those without people. People are not distractions from important things; they are important things.
Choosing Your Chaos
Advent is a season of preparation, a season of expectation. Sadly, in our culture, it’s also a season of chaos. It’s a season of too-full schedules, shopping and stress. It’s a month of joy and of giving, but also of clutter and distraction.
It is important for believers to correctly define “distractions.” It is also important for us, especially during the season of Advent, to choose our chaos well.
We’re all going to have a level of chaos, of discomfort, of things beyond our control. That’s the inescapable truth of being fallible, limited mortals. So let us choose wisely which we will embrace.
Will we invite the chaos of loving the unlovely? Of forgiving the unforgivable? Of choosing grace over bitterness and peace over pride?
Or will we fill our days with contentiousness? Will we choose politics, news, arguments, and positions over humility and sacrifice?
I cannot answer for you. I just know I want a faith that goes deeper than propriety. I want a life that is real and true and grace-filled and Christ-like. That’s the type of chaos I choose.
TALK TO ME:
How can we force ourselves out of our comfort zones this week? Are there ways we can relinquish control to receive the unexpected opportunities God has for us?