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Tracing the Pattern

My friend, Mark Tidsworth (Pinnacle Leadership Associates), posted the following on Facebook last week:

The chaos is an indicator deformation is now in full swing
Cry, lament, curse, grieve...whatever we need to let Egypt go
Making space in ourselves for creation and rebirth
As God constantly works to make all things new, all things new

Mark is describing the spiritual rhythm of life: formation, deformation, reformation. Walter Brueggemann uses the words: orientation, disorientation, reorientation. Richard Rhor speaks of: order, disorder, reorder. Even though they are using different words, each writer is pointing out that throughout the Bible there is an evolution of human spirit. The human race is growing and transforming according to a predictable pattern in its understanding of what it means to be connected to God. We see the traces of this pattern in the Bible and in our lives.

In the beginning, there is a form. This is when everything fits together. There are predictable patterns. There are rules and a natural set of laws. If you follow the rules then you will be successful.

Next comes deformation. Deformation happens when the rules stop working and don’t make sense. Someone who is good and loving gets cancer and dies. A group of terrorists hijack a couple of planes and crash them into the Twin Towers in New York. Suddenly, there is chaos and everything is deformed. The “pillars of reason and sense” don’t make sense anymore. It feels like someone has pulled the rug out from under us.

Then comes reformation. New patterns and realities emerge. We gain a new sense of the world we really live in, and that new reality helps us with a fresh way to look at our world.  

We are a people born out of the great Reformation. So this pattern is nothing new to us. We simply can’t grow and develop without things falling apart from time to time. This often painful reality is part of a pattern that plays out through our lives and the life of our communities. My friend’s FaceBook post was right; these are deeply deformed days. Nothing seems normal or easy, but we are not without hope. The key is to trust that there is gospel even now, even in the midst of all the chaos. God is in the chaos – working and shaping the now fragmented pieces into the new that will be.

Some of my best life lessons have come from backpacking along the Appalachian Trail, and they seem pretty relevant for the chaos of these days. There are days when your pack feels like it weighs more than you do – let your pace match your burden. There are days when the uphill climb never ends – the only way over the mountain is to take the next step and keep putting one foot in front of the other. And there are days when you especially appreciate the people who walk with you – we were created for community; we need companions. So in these deformed days, let us hold fast and trust that God will provide while we take the next few steps forward into the future that is being reformed even now. 

Amanda Atkin
Associate Minister of Faith Formation