Paying Attention to the Holy Chaos

The ways in which rhythms of life ramps up in August are abundant; the hectic, busy nature fills the air. People begin walking a little faster, having less time to linger over a conversation, and to-do lists grow or become more pressing as we prepare for the start of the school year or the program year. It is exciting and invigorating, even if we lament the end of the (hopefully) more relaxed summer months.

It’s a time of year during which it is hard to pay attention. If we enter into this season running full tilt without making sure that we pay attention, we’ll miss the first of the leaves turning yellow, we’ll miss that first cool morning air that signifies that fall is coming, we’ll miss that we’ve made it through another season and we won’t be able to take pause to give thanks for all that stands behind us and all that waits before us.

I’m a big fan of paying attention; I love the beauty that you see when you pay attention. This beauty is in the changing of the seasons and dances across the trees and the hills that we call home, of course, but this beauty also rests on the faces of those we love or those we barely know. The beauty that you get to see when you pay attention resides in relationships that deepen with each conversation and shared moment. Paying attention gives you a glimpse of what the world and all that reside in it looks like in truth; the pain and the ugliness is sharper, but so is the beauty.

As we run into the start of this school year, it is important, for me at least, to take a moment; it’s important for me to take a moment to give thanks for the rain or the sun, to give thanks for new relationships and for old ones that hold me up in more ways than I can express. It’s important for me to be able to see the ways in which God moves through the people with whose path I cross, whether we see each other or not. It’s important to take time to listen to the conversations that happen and pay attention to where God might be moving or calling us as we excitedly talk about our plans and our hopes for the coming months and year.

“We need moments in our life when we let the chaos settle a bit and invite God to show us evidence of [God’s] presence at work in big ways and subtle ways and allow [God] to guide us in our understanding of what these things mean.” [1] Ruth Haley Barton’s appeal strikes me as necessary as we seek to pay attention at the busy start of this upcoming year. When we pay attention, we get to see that this time of year isn’t merely chaos for chaos’ sake; it, like so many other things in our life and work, is a sort of holy chaos. Through this holy chaos God moves and creates; this holy chaos contains more details and facets than we can imagine or grasp, and in many ways this is a gift from God. May we let it settle and may our eyes be opened to all the ways in which God is moving through new beginnings, fresh starts, developing relationships, or the soon-to-be changing of the leaves.

[1] Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, 63.

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