Do you get unsettled when your routine is disrupted? I am a creature of habit and I love it when everything goes to plan. But when unexpected interruptions mess up my day it can take quite a bit of effort to get things back in order again.
I guess I am Addicted to Order. I like things to be convenient and to work out neatly. I can cope with some disruption and delay, as long as the overall order of things remains fairly stable and predictable.
I wonder how I would cope in those times of disaster, invasion or other huge disruption to life.
When things go pear-shaped in my world my first, human inclination is to be alarmed and frustrated. I can fairly easily become tense about how things might work out and how I will get needed things done.
I have been in places where unexpected road closures or transport delays, power outages, staff absence due to accident or illness, or similar disruptions occurred. I know from watching others that I am not the only one to get rattled by those things.
Once I’ve become unsettled I quickly realise I’m not supposed to be like that. I have to remind myself that God has everything under control and that this is not the end of the world. It might be the end of my plans for the day, but what are those plans in the great scheme of things? If I had taken ill for a week those plans would have been abandoned anyway. Yet the world would keep turning and people would adjust to the disruption.
When things are disrupted permanently everyone manages to adjust and find their work-around, and life goes on. That’s a Biblical insight. The sun comes up each day and seasons come and go as normal.
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.” Genesis 8:22
Our comfort zone is that set of routines we are accustomed to. We like to stick within those bounds and we feel fine while we do. If we are dragged out of predictable patterns we feel uncomfortable and, for some, quite distressed. As soon as we can we claw our way back to the routines and comfortable things we prefer.
This reveals we’ve become Addicted to Order and comfort and predictability.
However, our ordered world can be a prison of its own. It can keep us from exploring new things and discovering whole realms of experience and joy otherwise shut out of our life.
I recall the first time I visited someone in a mental institution. I had only ever heard stories of such places and I didn’t know what to expect. However I had been asked to check up on someone and couldn’t get out of it. By being forced out of my comfort zone I realised that visiting such places was not as I expected.
Similarly I was quite uncomfortable on my first visit to prison. In time I was not only comfortable in that setting but could assist and relate to those I met there.
I recall as a teenager being urged to do outreach to migrants. A small group of us would go to migrant villages and invite people to join us for food, singing and a Christian movie. This was way outside my idea of a good time. I don’t think I ever really enjoyed it, but doing that expanded my world.
As I stepped out from time to time to put myself in new places and situations I gradually grew a larger comfort zone. I found that God is with me in all the various places and challenges. The people I meet, whether foreigners, or from a different faith, or criminals, or of any age, are still humans who face much the same thoughts and experiences I know. They have the same needs and they need Jesus and God’s love as much as anyone else.
I dread to think how small my world would be if I had stuck to the order of things I was addicted to. Thankfully marriage and family, life experience, taking on new responsibilities, travel, new situations and challenges, relating widely to all kinds of people, and similar experiences expanded my world.
Those experiences also humbled me, showing me I didn’t know as much as I thought, and wasn’t as capable as I would like to have been. I met people who far outperformed me in areas where I thought I was pretty good. I met people who needed and appreciated me, despite my limitations. I sampled foods, culture, sights and friendships far beyond the limited world I once knew.
I have also seen God work in wonderful and varied ways and met people whose encounter with God has inspired and challenged me. I have faced failures and defeats, which are things I carefully avoided, and I learned from those experiences.
I learned to put legs on my faith, and to see how God’s Word and His promises play out in real life. I learned how to understand and help people better, and how to be humble enough to recognise I was way out of my depth. I learned how to give honour to those who deserve my respect, or who endured and lived out things I have never risen to.
I also learned how to put aside my comfort zone. I have slept in grass huts, dined on strange rations, traversed some pretty rough country, met some weird characters, put up with smells and indignities we would normally avoid, and had to accept whatever was offered.
After all that I can’t be sure I’m not at heart still quite Addicted to Order, routine, comfort and predictability. But I have also learned to find God’s grace when all that is disrupted. I might even have a small pity-party first, feeling sorry about the disruption, but I then get my act together and look to God to see what He is doing in all the mess.
So, let me encourage you to step out of your ordered world and discover the amazing things God wants to connect you to. Maybe you could get out to a Christian meeting or hear a new speaker, or volunteer to assist an outreach, or join a team doing good somewhere. Maybe you could invite someone home for a meal, or just stop and chat with a stranger at church and make them feel comfortable.
As you open your heart to God, and open your world to the people and challenges God sends along, your whole world is ready for some exciting upgrades.
And, while we all like things the way we like them, I urge you to ask God to help you be no longer Addicted to Order.