We Made It, or Did We?
We were threatened with chaos: computer systems would fail, nuclear plants would blow up, nuclear weapons would discharge, at the least, we would be without power and water. One family sold their house in Denver, moved to a rural area, purchased a generator to provide electricity, dug a well, and mounted a satellite dish. I don't know how they thought there was going to be TV with all that chaos!
But, we made it, thanks to those of you who reprogrammed the computers and caught the bugs. However, the real hero in the battle against chaos was a minister friend in Australia. Some of you Family campers met him several years ago, Ian Lord. Included in his Christmas letter was this poem which he composed.
'Twas the night before New Year, and all through the manse,
My head on my pillow, Janelle was asleep,
When all of a sudden, I heard a loud "shakin"
The house was in darkness, so it was not easy,
A rather weird body, he spat and he hissed,
But though my big Bible weighed nearly 2 stone,
But the bug was still mocking -- a devilish smile,
I grabbed the great vermin, oh what the heck,
"My dear Ian," she said, "what is going on?
It's only four numbers, when it's all said and done,
There you have it! The Y2K bug was strangled! Chaos was averted. We made it, or have we? Might there still be power outages, weapons discharged, violence in the streets, schools and homes, floods, earthquakes, global warming, divorces, famines, child abuse?
I find the biblical image of the planet, and of life on the planet, intriguing and helpful. Genesis 1:1-2, "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters." The view of creation ex nihilio where God created out of nothing is not the Genesis view. In the Genesis view, God created order out of chaos, translated "formless void" in the New Revised Standard Version. The Hebrew word is tohu wabohu (doesn't that have a ring to it)! The primeval chaos is symbolized further by raging, turbulent water and darkness. God's creative work brought order and harmony. Image raging water and darkness into which God placed the earth, which according to the science of Genesis, was shaped like an upside down bowl, flat on the bottom, with a dome on top called the firmament. The firmament held off the chaos.
While in Vermont last fall, we visited friends-- Old Testament scholar Bernhard and Monique Anderson. He gave us a copy of his new book, Contours of Old Testament Theology, in which he writes, p. 88,
"The Genesis portrayal is compatible with a new revolution in science in which the Newtonian view of a static, ordered cosmos is superseded by that of a complex, dynamic universe in which order and chaos belong together."
God's work is not over. Chaos still persists. Tohu wabohu breaks through with violence, hunger, injustice, cancer, strokes, floods. Can you see yourself standing protected within the dome of God's love and creation, with chaos threatening, pounding on the dome, looking for a crack, seeking to enter and wreak havoc. When it does, God is there, creating, holding back the chaos, bringing harmony and order.
Throughout the Bible, turbulent water is used to symbolize the chaos with which God contends. Psalm 29:3, 10,"The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters...
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood."
Water will not defeat the Lord. Tohu wabohu has met its match!
I find it highly symbolic and significant that Jesus began his ministry by descending into water, walking down into the Jordan River where he was baptized. Symbolic of God's victory over the waters of chaos, when Jesus was coming up out of the water, the heavens were torn apart, the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, and the voice thundered, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Whatever the chaos, Jesus walks into it, continuing the process of creation, and he calls us to follow. Into the chaos, we send missionaries and we all are missionaries. Into the diseases of Mozambique, there goes Beth Ferrell, shining the light of Christ, fighting the forces which threaten the lives of people.
Whenever chaos threatens you, whatever kind of chaos attacks you, whatever the chaos in your career, your family, your marriage, your health; whatever inner doubts and fears you may experience, shake your fist at tohu wabohu. Then, unclasp your fist, reach out and let Jesus take you by the hand, and lead you through the chaos! "The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders." God is at work.
© 2000 Douglas I. Norris