Reflections on Chaos and Shalom
WCIU Journal: Community and Societal Development Topic
September 2, 2015
by Grace May
As I was reading Beth Snodderly’s Chaos Is Not God’s Will, I was taken aback by the familiarity of the metaphor of battle and parallels to Dan Allender’s teaching at the Story Workshop that I was attending at the Allender Center in Seattle, Washington (this took place between August 20-23, 2015).
Through careful exegesis, Snodderly argues for a pre-Genesis landscape tobu wabohu that is “empty, shaken, ruined, shattered” (6) with the resulting call by God to be partners in restoring what evil had destroyed, “trampling diabolical forces underfoot” (6). From the microorganisms that assault the human body with disease to the macrosystems that hold the economy and the governments of this world in lock and step with the kingdom of darkness, we are charged with destroying the works of the evil one to demonstrate God’s glory.
Allender, likewise, calls individuals to “step on the neck of evil,” something we do when we dare to speak the truth and to tell our story. On the opening day of the workshop, he stated his premise, “God is the author of your story, every portion of your story, who your mother and father are, your height, your hair color,” but then he added an important caveat, “EXCEPT God is not the author of sin perpetrated against you or that has risen in you.” He punctuated his talks with the refrain, “We are in a war” to reclaim our stories, our feelings, and our very lives.
While our stories are meant to be told, the shame in chapters of our lives can be so damaging that they silence us or cause us to pretend or protect those who have failed us. But unless we enter into death, we cannot arrive at the resurrection God has prepared for us. Vows with the kingdom of darkness (“I’m useless. I’ll never amount to anything.”) must be broken before we can step fully into the light.
I shared a brief chapter from my childhood, and a desire welled up within me to be in touch with the little girl that bravely confronted her bully. But how could I cross the impasse and access her when I had grown so accustomed to yielding and not creating waves? While I hardly welcome conflict, I recognized that it was in those turbulent waters that I could seize the opportunity to give myself permission to say, “No.”
It became apparent hat as I debated the pros and cons of a decision and wrestled with my motives, those were the very moments where I could honor the courageous child within and to delight in my voice as my Father does. But to do so does entail fighting to the death the lie that being conciliatory is always the best posture to take or that my opinion is not worth sharing.
With the intervention of the Spirit, Shalom flourishes when truth flourishes and all God’s children develop voice and agency. Resurrection breaks through when we will let go and relinquish the idolatry of comfort to enjoy genuine peace and safety. The foundational truth of overcoming evil with good on which our school stands was brought home palpably and personally to me as I participated in the Story Workshop.