The Day the Bottom Fell Out of Everything

Jo and I awoke early after a fitful sleep that first night in the main Canela village. Rain had wakened us several times as it blew in through the open holes in the mud walls, still without shutters. We were exhausted after the long trip and from unloading three packing drums and dozens of cardboard boxes from the truck the day before.

Unloading supplies for a seven month stay in the Canela village

We dressed, and I started a fire on the ground at the back door to boil water so Jo could make coffee and breakfast porridge. Our three pre-school daughters were still fast asleep in their hammocks, worn out from riding on top of the truckload of cargo for the four-day 60 kilometre last leg of the trip. After eating our breakfast, using the top of a metal packing drum as a table, I asked some Canela men to bring lots of thin palm canes to make shelves.

The chaos started when some of the cane shelves and tables were ready to be filled. I picked up a box of cans of food and two steps later all the cans dropped out the bottom scattering on the floor. The same thing happened to Jo with a box of medicines. Huh? What? Then it hit me. Construction of our mud walled, palm thatch roofed house was still going on the day we arrived, the packed earth floor was still damp, and the moisture had soaked into the bottom of every cardboard box. That explained it. But it solved nothing.

It was hopeless. We had to get those boxes up off the floor before the dampness would damage the contents. But no matter how careful we were, the boxes kept coming apart. Rolls of film, jars of medicine, packages of soup, everything was loose and mixed up with everything else. Our girls were on the floor, picking things up one by one, and sorting them in little heaps on shelves. Shelves! We need more shelves! We couldn’t live there, let alone minister to anyone, until we had created some order out of the chaos.

A text from Genesis 1 popped into my mind. “The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.” God looked at the mess and started creating some order. He sorted light from dark, night from day, sky from earth, and land from water. I felt a kinship with my Creator as I sorted my disorganized mess into separate orderly piles and stacks of food, medications, study supplies, equipment, etc.

Order is important. Paul summarized his teaching to the church in 1 Corinthians 14:33-40. “God is not the author of confusion, but of order.” God constantly creates order. The Israelites leaving Egypt were a disorganized mob. By the time God got done creating some order at Sinai, they marched out in tribes, each in their allotted location. Before Jesus miraculously fed the unruly crowd, he instructed his disciples to create order out of chaos and have people sit in groups of fifty and hundreds.

Let’s face it, life on planet Earth, even in the homes of Christians, still obeys the second law of thermodynamics which indicates that disorder always tends to increase. Hot coffee gets cold. Cold lemonade gets warm. Time schedules become skewed, pantry shelves get disorganized and our good intentions and good beginnings fade away into failure.

It took me a week to recover from my last major trip. Stuff was piled in chaos on my study floor, desks, and shelves. Critical things like glasses, keys, and power cords hid themselves the moment I turned my back. Before I could do any writing, planning, or even extended praying I had to create some order out of the chaos.

God hates chaos and loves order. He wants us to have regular places to work, regular times of sleep, food, rest, times of silence, solitude and thought. Jesus did this constantly, going off by himself out into the hills to pray, to think, to plan. The Holy Spirit works through order. He blesses others through us when our lives are in order.

When we see an OUT OF ORDER sign on a gas pump or an ATM, we know we won’t get any gas or money from them. So what makes us think we can be a source of blessing to anyone if our own lives are out of order and in a state of chaos?

We need to look at every aspect of our lives and ministry for evidences of chaos and put them in order. It’s not just about having a place for everything and putting everything in its place. Are we punctual, or do others have to wait for us? Do we drive our vehicles in a way that confuses others? Do we have workable and effective routines? What about our relationships? Our service for God?

We need to ask ourselves, “What area of my life bothers me the most? Where has the bottom fallen out of it?”

Let’s do what God did as His first act of creation. Bring order to the chaos.