This desk is a mess. So before I do anything else, it needs tidying. As Mr Aspinall taught me in primary school: “A tidy desk means a tidy mind.”
So apologies, folk: you’ll just have to wait.
(Long delay as I tidy my desk).
I once asked Ewan, my son-in-law, a process engineer at Cranfield University, what he would do faced with an untidy desk and a tight deadline. Like me, he would always tidy his desk first.
For we both need an ordered environment. I function best where there is structure. That’s why I don’t like fighting for a place in a busy supermarket car park. I need a clear organisation.
The problem, however, for Ewan and me is life, which can be very messy.
When I was training for ministry, I found my placement at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle very difficult, things just kept happening without stopping. The chaplain had the gift of listening.
His advice was “Ross, you have to learn to minister amongst confusion.”
In complete contrast, another son-in-law – a musician – can produce most exquisite of work upon layers of detritus of almost biblical proportions. That’s assuming, of course, that he can locate his keyboard. His study can be awesome.
No doubt he would quote to me C G Jung, who observed that creative minds are rarely tidy. Jung may be right, but when I googled “Carl Gustav Jung desk” and clicked images, I could see that the desk of this great pioneer was impressively ordered, not a book out of place.
My guess is that he – or his wife – tidied his desk for the photograph. In his heart, he knew the imperative of a tidy desk.
I’m not sure how tidy was the apostle Paul’s desk but he did write to the Corinthian church concerning their worship that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace – as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” (1 Corinthians 14:33). However, notice the opposite of disorder is not order (as you would expect) but peace. For the aim of God is to bring peace/shalom to this disordered creation.
This shalom is a rich interplay of relationships, all in harmony, altogether creative and above all in complete harmony with God. Above all, we see this shalom in Jesus, for he is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
So Jesus is not fazed by disorder, by confusion. He sleeps through the storm but on being awakened he rebukes the wind and says to the waves “Quiet, be still!” Peace within brings peace without, not the other way round.
And the good news is that he promises this peace to all those who surrender their discordant lives to him.
It’s not just the case that “with Jesus in the boat we can smile through the storm.” He summons us with the mission of being peace makers, of bringing God’s shalom to a disordered world.
For as Peggy Haymes writes:
“Avoiding conflict isn’t peacemaking. Avoiding conflict means running away from the mess while peacemaking means running into the middle of it. Peacemaking means addressing those issues that caused conflict in the first place.”
The risen Jesus speaks to his disciples, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ May we be Christ’s peace today.