In Defense of Order

davidgoliathI listened to a truly wonderful interview of Franciscan friar/Catholic priest and author, Richard Rohr recently. In it, he noted that as people develop spiritually, they move through three phases: Order, Disorder, and Synthesis.

Order is all about law, tradition, structure, certitude, order, clarity, authority, safety, and specialness. Disorder is where all of these things are challenged, but where people also begin to develop healthy self-criticism, and to acknowledge their own “dark sides.” It’s a liberating stage – but also one clouded in doubt and confusion as that which was once so clear and certain is no longer so. When people remain in the first phase and do not move into the second, Rohr notes that they remain tribal in their thinking, believing they are the “only,” and become narcissistic.

It is then the combination of the first two phases: healthy self-criticism added to the certainty of one’s specialness that allows one to move into the final phase, Synthesis.

Here you move into the language of mystery and paradox. This is the second half of life. You are strong enough now to hold together contradictions, even in yourself, even in others. And you can do so with compassion, forgiveness, patience, and tolerance. But we don’t move toward the second half until we’ve gone through the other two states. The best sequence, therefore, is order-disorder-synthesis. ~ Richard Rohr.

What was particularly fascinating to me was Rohr’s assertion that it is very hard for people to progress to Synthesis when they never spent time in Order, but began in Disorder.

I myself spent plenty of time in Order as I grew up in a church that believed it was the “only” true church. But my entire time as a parent has coincided with my time in Disorder, with ever increasing forays lately, I hope, into Synthesis.

So a small bomb went off in my thinking when I read this because I saw that despite my own current position, my children themselves must begin in Order if they are to develop rich, deep, lifelong spiritual lives. I will do them no favours if because of me, they bypass Order and begin instead in Disorder. (Yet with many in my generation, this is what we are unwittingly doing with our children.)

I do not believe that this has to mean that their time in Order is characterised by all that characterised mine. But were I to believe that all that I experienced in Order was pointless, I’d be wrong. Despite all the sadness, disappointment and disillusionment I have experienced in my life as we all do, I will never stop believing in a loving God who never leaves me. This is likely because of my time in Order when the lasting building blocks of faith were being built, many and even most of them at an unconscious level.

With my children now, if I couch every Bible story in qualification, and am not able to share with them anything that is rock solid and believable at face value, I may well rob them of the certainties that they will need as the foundations to their own spiritual journeys.

And when I am too concerned with trying to explain away cloudy, uncomfortable aspects of certain stories, I run the risk of killing the magic, so to speak. My children need to look up to the larger-than-life heroes of the Bible, just as they need to look up to the heroes of legends, myths and great literature. When those individuals take on life in our minds and hearts, we are all made better for it.

Their flaws will become apparent to my children all too soon – and the knowledge of it will coincide with their knowledge of their own flaws. But maybe, just maybe, the belief that they too could be heroic even while flawed will live on somehow. It’s a critical belief to take into adulthood.

Modern day heroism in the battles we fight daily is not just a dream, but the promise of God living in all of us and revealing to us the truth of who we really are in him.

Heroes. Good people. Sacrificial. Willing to lose our lives for one another. Brave.

Many of these battles are played out on a daily basis. They may not seem significant to us, but to the development of our character and the refinement of our souls, they are every bit as significant as any battle of good against evil, light against darkness. Because of God in us, we can be people of the light. Faithful friends and spouses. Devoted parents and children. Honest. Hospitable. We can try always to choose kindness. We can try always to choose to extend grace. We can try always to forgive.

God has designed us to grow this way through these stages for a reason. When it comes to my children, it’s up to me to just step back, trust the process and to embrace my children wholeheartedly where they are. God has set this example for us throughout eternity, by embracing all people fully wherever we are.

He always will. And that’s a solid rock we can all stand on.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

1 comment so far

  1. Richard Pullin on

    Jeannine. Well written. Your article is a good example of how using an outside philosophy or model interprets Scripture in helpful ways.


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