August 10, 2017
Last week I wrote about the paradox of needing “decency and good order” alongside “creative chaos with a messy desk.” This week, I’ll flesh out how these two disparate elements can coexist.
When it comes to our relational lives—our families and friends, our places of work, our spiritual communities—we need a sense of safety and trust to enable us to feel we truly belong and can be ourselves. We need to treat each other with basic decency and respect. We need the good order of reliable affection so we can put our roots down and begin to flourish.
AND we need messy spaces where we can play, experiment, make mistakes, and blow things up to bring new ideas and products into existence. As a composer of music and sermons, I need regular times of creative silence and an environment of uncriticized messiness to write something new. These are the two essential ingredients in my cookbook: soul silence and creative chaos!
Recently, some well-intentioned friends consolidated my seemingly random piles of writings, scratchings, and sketches. I have been struggling ever since. What looks like disorder to the average office cleaner is a hive of creative happiness for me.
After posting about this paradox of order and chaos last week, a friend reminded me of a historically-shaky-yet-devastatingly-true quote from Orson Welles. “In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
In the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), we lean hard toward the decency-and-good-order side of the paradox. I, however and for the record, as a pastoral leader, am unabashedly attempting to shepherd a somewhat messily inclined congregation further into the productive ways of creative chaos. I’d trade 10,000 cuckoo clocks to see us produce a single sculpture like “David.”
Last week, a band of ne’er-do-well musicians from our church known as “The Broken Halos” was invited to play a show in downtown Detroit for a first ever ministry conference of our bi-national CRC kinfolk. After a long day, these weary Christian Reformed conferencees stumbled into a room filled with music, cupcakes, and Faygo sodas. For the first 15 minutes, a few hundred folks stood around smiling and bobbing their heads, enjoying the sugar rush and the rock and roll. Then came a surprise: a woman—a European immigrant judging from her lovely accent--came to a microphone and said, “I think we should form a committee and decide whether or not we should dance!”
It was so Christian Reformed: very decent and in good order. A band member asked if she would like to make this a formal motion. She replied, dripping with sarcasm, “No, I’m a woman.”
Peels of laughter erupted, a faux motion was made from the floor, immediately seconded, followed by an exultant chorus of “Aye’s” affirming the desire to dance. When I asked for those voting against to reply with the same sign, there was amused silence. The music played. The people danced. A jubilant and happy mess ensued.
I was aware in that moment that I was witnessing a parable, a sign from God about how life can be, even in the CRC. When decency and creativity paradoxically get together, the people dance and say, “Amen.”