Creative people can look at something chaotic and find order. They can bring unity to diversity without suffocating the diversity. I’ve been watching the new hit series, Touch, with Keifer Sutherland. It is a fascinating show where Sutherland plays the part of an autistic child’s father. The child’s mother died in the towers on 9/11. The young boy never speaks audibly, but begins to communicate through numbers and patterns. His dad quickly discovers that by following the numbers he becomes interweaved into a story that links lives and events the world over to bring help to one or more people with painful problems. Sometimes the scope of the help that comes through the result of his following the numbers remains unbeknownst to Keifer’s character.
Keifer finds help from a doctor who also has this ability to see numerically. The doctor’s controversial research indicates that this boy is picking up on the mathematical order in the cosmos and communicating it to help end the pain of others.
I can’t help but be reminded of the prophetic when I see the boy notice a number and write it down and that number reappear as an address, phone number, apartment number, receipt number, or the number of a bus or taxi. It is exciting to watch seemingly unconnected people and events converge into a unified story.
In doing so, I contemplate the chaordic – the order in chaos. I become fascinated by the unity in diversity. Human nature attempts to unify by removing diversity, but the real artistic beauty of creation comes when order and chaos coalesce without sacrificing one to the other.
I tend to lean towards being neat and orderly at the expense of freedom and yet my way of thinking creates a tension pulling me towards greater and greater freedom. My first instinct is to keep messes from happening by preparing for all the variables in advance. But freedom, messes included, produces much more life than keeping messes at bay.
I think religion often tries to ignore or protect against the contamination of messy life. Jesus did it so differently. He intentionally placed himself in the thick of the messiness of life. He hung out with the prostitutes and tax collectors. He spent time talking with a Samaritan woman. He was born in a stable, slept in a manger, rode a donkey, and hung out with smelly fishermen. He washed the feet of his disciples and touched lepers.
I was once listening to a couple who pastor overseas. They were amused by how American churches are so bent on keeping clean sanctuaries. They said where they pastor; everyone knows you don’t put carpets in the sanctuary. Here we are concerned about someone spilling coffee, but there people get real messy. When they get healed or delivered things happen that cause big messes. Between bodily functions and tumors falling off, there is no concern for the place getting messy. Sometimes I think we are too focused on keeping things neat and clean that we think clean hands makes a clean heart. Jesus warned against washing the outside of the cup to make the inside clean. It doesn’t work that way. Outward appearances of a saintly community fool no one.
We often cannot get to the inside because we are focused on the outside. Religion keeps us looking at how good we look. It blinds us to how empty we are. Jesus cleans the inside of us and draws us out into freedom so that we can make messes and learn how to clean them up. Moreover a healthy Jesus culture doesn’t look cookie cutter, but has a beautiful diversity of each person being who he or she is to be in Christ rather than just like the next clone. Religion births clones, Jesus births people.