In today’s gospel, some were speaking about the temple, its beautiful stones and gifts, dedicated to God. The temple is what structured their community. It gave the people their identity, purpose and meaning. It was the center of all Jewish life. Jesus looked at the temple and said, “The days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Jesus was speaking about more than just the physical temple in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem temple includes every temple you and I have built. So, what do we do on the day when one or more of our temples fall?
Margaret Silf, a retreat leader and the author of several guides to the spiritual journey, gives us a few insights. Her own faith journey has been shaped by the Ignatian spirituality, which has helped her to find real, living connections with the Gospel for transformation in our modern age. Margaret Silf, in her book, The Other Side of Chaos, suggests we must be willing to tolerate, and even welcome these interruptions to our smooth running lives. As Silf points out, God’s purpose is not to restore, rehabilitate or return us to a former state, but to re-create, to take the broken pieces and put them back together into something new and of even greater value.
In order to change our perspective, we may need to discern what we are willing to let die, or what the Lord is asking us to let go of. Each of these events results in some type of loss. After a loss, there is a grieving process we must all go through. We may encounter some form of denial (e.g., I can’t believe this happened). There will even be those who are angry and resist moving forward from their former place of security ( e.g., But, we’ve always done it this way).
These are normal responses and need to be acknowledged and understood. During this process of letting go, we are called to encourage one another to move forward, to appreciate that the old ways of doing things may not be what is best anymore. My own experience of change has encouraged me to believe that it is often precisely those times when I am “dislodged” and forced to leave my accustomed comfort zone that are really an invitation to “begin to be set free.” Transitions are never comfortable. They change us, whether we like it or not, and they usually don’t give us the option of ever going back. Things will never be quite the same again. So, what does moving forward mean?Ultimately, the other side of chaos gives us courage to trust God when our life is breaking down and to see our messes, not as something to be rescued from, but as something that will help us break through to a place where God makes all things new.
The greater story is how we discovered God next to us in the temple ruins and how, stone by stone, God rebuilds what we cannot. It is the ongoing story of God recreating life out of loss and ruin, a story of God rejoicing and delighting in his people. This story is the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, lived in each one of us. It is Real, Sacred and True. Trust your story, tell it over and over to yourself, proclaim it to all you see, and then go live that story.
What lies on the other side of chaos? Can a negative experience of change be the catalyst for a new beginning, calling us forward into deeper freedom? Where is the meaning and hope in all our disruptions? Are times of transition simply chaotic periods that we have to survive or might they mean more than that? Might they actually be times when something radically new is gestating within us, and painfully coming to birth? As you look around the world we live in, and inside yourself, notice where you feel that there are crisis points. In those situations, where do you see the danger? Where might there be an opportunity?
I have found the following prayer to be helpful when events like these occur in my life or my ministry:
Mighty Everlasting Father, everything is changing around me. Help me to not fear these changes. Rather, may I embrace them daily. Please give me strength to rise above every situation and overcome the darkness. When temptations, and storms and struggles are thrown at me, I will seek You and be wrapped in Your holy presence. Grant me joy where there is sadness. Bless me with faith where there is no hope. Shower me with light in the midst of darkness. But most of all, give me peace within the chaos. These changes in my life baffle me at times, my God. But let me be still and remember who is the author. Lord, You bring it all together for my betterment. And therefore, I trust that things will work out according to Your will and plan for my life. For in the end, I will be able to say: “Thank You, Jesus, for bringing me thus far… I now understand why I had to go through this and to You I am eternally grateful.” In Jesus mighty name I pray, Amen.