“In the beginning when God was creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep,” (Genesis 1:1). “Formless void” in Hebrew is “tohu webohu” — that is, “waste-schmaste.” The Big Bang gives us much the same feel. In the beginning was chaos.

Through the rest of Genesis 1, a wind/breath/spirit from God proceeds to put boundaries on chaos — separating light from darkness, water from land, and so on. Six days of creation. Six days of restraining chaos. And then it was done. God rested. And here we are.

Only chaos keeps breaking out! I have proof. Daniel and I were taking care of our 4-year-old granddaughter who was looking forward to riding my new horse Stella. The mare stood calmly for a child’s grooming, she didn’t move a muscle as I lifted my granddaughter onto the saddle. She posed for pictures. And then, out of the blue, she bucked big! In horror I saw my granddaughter fly through the air and land hard. Since helmets are an absolute in my world, and the grace of childhood prevailed, a nice tuck and roll led to no concussion, not even any bruises (!) — only a sore bum. Yes, we were lucky and no, I will not put her on Stella any time soon, even though I figure my mare was stung by a hornet and did a normal horsey thing.

Chaos. Need I say anything about the uncreation of our democratic norms, the rule of law, and human decency? Or the ravages of climate change? We are being undone. It is terrifying. No wonder there’s so much denial going on.

But can we muster as much courage as my granddaughter who announced that she would like to ride Buddy next time? Yes, get back on the horse, people! We must. Here are two convictions that might help.

One: Creation is not a done deal. Never has been. We’re far better off to expect chaos, and train hard to be persistent, resilient wrestlers. I mean, really: Adam and Eve mess up the plan by chapter 3, and then there is a flood and crucifixion and all. Expecting God alone to take down chaos means both failure and lack of faith. After all, God made us co-creators — tillers and keepers of the Garden — and lovers of neighbor and enemy alike. This work is on us.

Two: But God’s great passion for life is set loose in and through us. Does this feel like a stretch? Of course! (Did it feel like a stretch for Jesus?) But trust God anyway. Live into the rest of Jesus’ story that wrestled life out of death. And pray for spiritual gifts that empower the great work required of us:

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“O God, where my heart is fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope.

Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance.

Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination.

Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance.”

(adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg-Fortress, 2006, p.76.)


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The Rev. Jean Larson is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and clergy coach. Reach her at jeanklarson@gmail.com.

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