Controlled Chaos

By Dr. Sanejo Leonard

I have never been able to run or run for very long. I’ve always wanted to be able to run, but in the past when I have tried to run, I usually stop after a few seconds, quite winded, wondering why I wanted to run in the first place.

For the past couple of years, I have been challenging myself to incorporate even a light jog for a minute or so into my walking to help build up endurance. And over the past few months I have been able to work up from one minute to over 20 minutes of jogging, which is quite an accomplishment; a big feat, until I tried to run outside. All this time I have been walking and jogging mostly inside, on a treadmill, in a climate-controlled room. I controlled my speed and the temperature, and I would prop up my tablet and watch Netflix shows. All in all, I found that jogging wasn’t so hard.

But lately I have had to jog outside now that all gyms and the fitness center at my complex are closed during the current COVID-19 crisis. I have dismayed to learn that jogging outside is a whole other challenge. I can’t control the weather, the road and its condition, or the wild turkeys that seem to get in my way and slow me down. I can’t control where and when the hills are, and I can’t control others who are out jogging and who seem to want to jog a little too close to me. In choosing to be outside, I am at the mercy of the conditions around me and I have to learn to adjust. The road feels harder on my body than that soft treadmill and the air feels as cold as the Artic. The hills seem more steep and the turkeys and other creatures more scary as one never can predict how animals will respond to humans. In my journey outside, I am reminded of how much I am no longer in control.

We as humans like and need some semblance of control, some form of order to our often chaotic lives. Yet, it is humbling to realize how little control we have over most things. In our current global crisis, much is out of our control. Life and death, our need for human contact and relationship, and even the basic necessities of food, shelter, and medical services all seem out of our control (who knew that toilet paper could become so rare and valuable!).

In Genesis 1:1-2, the beginning of everything, it reminds us of who is in control: “In the beginning God….” That phrase alone is enough to reassure that despite everything else, God has always been and is firmly in control. Verses 1 and 2 continue by saying that God “created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (NIV).

The words “formless and empty” that are used to describe earth in verse 2 come from the Hebrew tohu and bohu. Tohu means formless and bohu is believed by scholars to mean the opposite of order, or chaos; out of control (sound familiar?). In the beginning of everything, God brought order and control to chaos and those things that were unformed. His Spirit hovered over or controlled the waters, and out of the chaos, the darkness, and the unformed mass, God brought creation. God made the impossible possible because He is God. God brought order to chaos, and God was and still is ultimately in control.

Problems and life’s disruptions of our sense of order help us realize that there is very little we can control: our actions and reactions to others, our care for ourselves and others, and our love of God—these are the things that are in our control; everything else is tohu and bohu.

Yet, it is in this moment of fear that we need to be reminded of who God is. In this time of desperation, we remember who the source of all life is. In this time of chaos, we can surrender control to the one who is.