Chaos Doesn’t Get the Last Word

Thanksgiving Morning at the Jessie Smith Nature Preserve

I’ve recently been enjoying — and learning a lot from — reading through the Book of Genesis in The Message. I honestly love the translation, and I’m feeling less and less shy about it. It doesn’t make any sense why anyone else would wish to obfuscate the meaning of the Bible texts by insisting on word-for-word translation from one language to another, or sticking with any one particular snapshot of the English language when it’s evolving from decade to decade. I actually have more sympathy for Muslims who insist that the only authoritative version of the Qur’an is the original Arabic version. Or the medieval monks who believed that the Bible must be read in Latin, since that was the language in use at the time that Christianity transitioned from being an underground movement to an established, mainstream religion — from a largely aural tradition among the uneducated, marginalized members of society to a written record compiled and maintained by elite, academic individuals and institutions. I don’t know. I’m not an expert. But I like the way that The Message speaks my language.

It’s weird, but the thing I’m appreciating the most about the early chapters of Genesis is their graphic depiction of the world’s brokenness. It just jives with the world I’m living in, as sad as it is, and there’s something reassuring about the fact that none of our struggles are a surprise to God: the jealousy… murderous anger… lust… self-centered thinking… hardship… disease… death… It’s all a very direct consequence of the Fall of Mankind. And even when God chooses to be merciful, He acknowledges, “I know they have this bent toward evil from an early age, but I’ll never again kill off everything living as I’ve just done (in the Great Flood during the time of Noah)” (Genesis 8:21).

The story of the Great Flood has resonated with me for a long time — at least since the birth of Olivia, almost twenty years ago. I know the feelings that go along with chaos. I fear chaos. I chafe against any swirl of uncertainty, destruction, disorientation, displacement, or nothingness. And yet, I’ve been through these sorts of things enough, and I’ve maintained faith through the “flood”s of this earthly existence, so I know that chaos doesn’t get the last word. I know that God’s goodness and mercy will ultimately rule the day.

So it’s good to come back to the story of the Great Flood and find reassurance in another season of chaos (mostly centered around caring for my aging parents this time). The rainbow is obviously-ordered — and beautiful — even though it is made up of the chaos of water droplets hanging in the air. I feel like there’s a really powerful metaphor in there that’s probably worth deeper reflection. Even a superficial understanding of rainbows, however, speaks to God’s power to bring order from chaos, meaning from meaninglessness, and hope from despair. So, I feel freshly determined to stay on the look-out for olive branches and rainbows in times of chaos.

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