Order or disorder

Anyone’s who’s been around me for more than 5 minutes knows I’m a very organized person. A couple years ago I posted a devotional written by retired CRC pastor Dale Vander Veen about the virtue and occasional vice of being organized. He accurately expressed how I feel in that piece and has now done so again in a recent devotional titled “Order or Disorder.” I reprint it here with Dale’s kind permission.

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Two verses in the same chapter speak of order: “God is not a God of disorder, but of order… Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” I love order – in my flowerbeds, in my study, in my car, in my finances, in my sock drawer, in my closet, on my bookshelves, in my planning for the future.

Recently our son’s family was at our home and I wanted to check on someone from a church we served some years ago. I left the room and returned fifteen seconds later with that church’s pictorial directory. My daughter-in-law exclaimed, “Who but Dad would know that he had that directory – and exactly where it was?” Why wouldn’t I know? What are filing cabinets and folders for anyway?

Graphic found via Google

I think deep down inside that I’m not searching for order as much as for peace. Some people find that too much order robs them of peace, confining them in the anxiety of organization. And I must apologize to those upon whom I have foisted order beyond what they could bear. To such dear friends and family members I say, “Let there be disorder in your life if that brings you peace.” For myself I say, “Let there be order in my life so I may have peace.”

Peace is of greater value than order. I must admit I changed the last word of 1 Corinthians 14:33 above from peace to order. Paul actually wrote, “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” God’s ultimate desire for us is not order, but peace. How much better to do what God wants me to do, and let him bring order as he sees best. Even suffering (a disordering experience for most) advances God’s sense of order and peace, for suffering brings perseverance which brings character which brings hope. And it is the God of hope who fills us with all joy and peace.

Let there be order, but above all, let there be peace – the peace of God!

Love above order

If I have a gift of organization that can move mountains of stuff,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
– 1 Corinthians 13:2 (paraphrased)

Pile of papers graphic found via Google

Most people would call me organized. 1 Corinthians 14:40 (KJV) could be my life verse: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” It’s not uncommon for me to hear, “Thanks for keeping things organized for us.” But some have also said, “You’re driving me crazy with your organization.” I hate to admit it, but I’ve even heard the phrase obsessive-compulsive, which, of course, is actually a disorder.

As the saying goes, “Every virtue has its vice.” I’ve discovered that most virtues (if organization can be called virtuous) also have their exceptions. I’m looking at a pile of stuff that’s been on my filing cabinet for weeks. I notice that the pile has birthed a child recently. In fact, the child pile is threatening to outgrow the parent.

Dare I put the child on top of the parent and get back to one teetering pile? Is there a shelf in the closet on which I can hide both the parent and the child and thus protect my reputation for organization?

Does it really matter? Ah, there is the important question. Does my reputation for organization matter? No. Does it matter if I have a pile of stuff setting around? Probably not. Does it matter if I have two piles of stuff setting around? Maybe not. But surely there must be some number of piles that violates decency and order!

If order doesn’t matter, what does matter? Paul says, “The only thing that matters is faith working through love.” Does my penchant for organization help me express my love for others or does it hinder showing that love? It all depends. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it hinders.

Father, giver of the gift of organization, give me also the gift of sensitivity, that I might use all your gifts for the good of others.

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Believe it or not, I did not write this reflection! I post it here with the kind permission of its original author, Dale Vander Veen. Anyone who’s been around me for more than 5 minutes will recognize a lot of me in Dale’s description of his tendency to be very organized!