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Faithful Resilience
Faithful Resilience

Consecrating the Chaos

Monday, January 22, 2024

Dr. Otis Moss III considers difficulties we face as individuals and in community:

A true crisis—a threat to yourself or someone you love—can sometimes do wonders to focus the mind. In the moment, if we have spiritual practices in place or we are blessed with inspiration, the noise and confusion may recede for a little while, and we may see again what matters. But … you don’t get that kind of clarity every time your blood pressure rises.…

In our darkest times, when the storm anxiety, worry, and chaos sweeps over an entire community, such feelings are everywhere. People who have children or elders worry they can’t keep them safe. Those blessed with jobs worry about losing them. Even following the news can be too much to take. People with mental health issues feel even more intensely challenged. People who self-medicate do it more and more. Activists who work in their communities start saying to themselves, “The more I do to fight back, the more the pressure builds. The dam is cracking, and every time I plug a hole with my finger, ten more holes show up.” The question haunts us: When will this end? …

Struggling in all that confusion, uncertainty, and violence, we become spiritually worn down. It’s too hard to keep believing.

We get tired.

We think:

My road is too hard.

The powerful will never treat people right.

I’ve tried everything, there’s nothing to be done.

It’s no use.

Moss believes faith can sustain us in chaos:

In the storm of chaos, lost in confusion and disorder, … the question is whether there might be some way to use the harsh, unpredictable winds and the relentless currents of our lives to get us moving to where we actually want to go. Do we have the spiritual audacity and the practical means to turn chaotic energy to our own purposes?

When you take on the confusion and the violence and you refine them, purify them into something new, you are doing what in the vocabulary of faith we call consecrating your chaos. To consecrate is to make holy, to put it into service for good. In consecrating chaos, you engage it, tame it, name it, take what seemed out of control and charge it with a duty.

The model here is the creation itself. We read in Genesis [1:2] that in the beginning, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep.” Scripture begins with a whole world of chaos. Then God begins to find the possibilities of design in that formless void, separating light from darkness, water from land…. God consecrates the chaos, giving it form. It is presented to us as an act of creativity and of choice. God works in the chaotic void until there is order and light, and it is good. The Genesis story reminds us that the void is not as empty as we think. Chaos is never as chaotic as we fear.

Otis Moss III, Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2023), 20, 21, 22, 25–26.

Image credit and inspiration:  Thays Orrico, Untitled (detail), Brazil, 2020, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

We keep the candles lit together throughout the joys and pains of human life.

Story from Our Community:  

I used to consider myself “left of center” in reference to my Catholic Christian faith, but recently I have found that saying I am near the “edge” is a more inclusive way to describe my experience. As a member of a 12-Step fellowship, I rejoice at the similarities of being in recovery and living on the edge of an ever-unfolding spiritual experience. God keeps revealing his great love for us! I am grateful. —Renee T.

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