The Music of Chaos

June 22, 2020 · by Whitney Gothra

Recently, I have been taking an absurd amount of walks with my two daughters.

With a five-year-old and a two-year-old, these walks have become crucial for our quarantine entertainment.

I spend the majority of these walks in between the two of them. My older daughter, Ruby, lags behind sniffing every flower, picking up every shiny rock, and making wishes on dandelions as she ever so slowly and painstakingly blows each piece of white fluff. 

Two-year-old Selah, strapped into the stroller for the world’s safety, leans forward, constantly urging me to “C’mon, Mama,” as I’m walking way too slowly for her. She wants to pet every dog, wave hello to every stranger, and she begs to be given her freedom so she can run straight into the busy street.

On our walks in our small town we pass the same houses, the same dogs, and the same friendly faces each time. We also pass over a little stream just before we get back home. A narrow road passes over it, and the metal guardrails leave enough space so that you can get a clear view of both sides of the stream.

We usually stop to look at it, but this one day we lingered, hypnotized by the soothing sounds and music of the stream. We peered over one side for a while, then we walked over and studied the other side. We noticed that something changes about this particular stream as it passes under the bridge of the road.

One side is calm. It flows smooth and steady, with barely any rocks or bumps to disturb the stream of water. It’s a little murky looking, and you can see discarded bricks and a random tire, but it is mostly calm and peaceful.

The other side is rocky, and it looks like the water speeds up as it flows over and around each boulder. The water moves fast, making little foamy bubbles as it is broken up by the rocks.

As we lingered on the side of the road, my girls started arguing about which side they wanted to see. Selah emphatically pointed to the loud, busy side with the big rocks and swirling water as she leaned forward in her stroller. Ruby grabbed my hand and tried to lead me to the smooth side because it was “calm.”

I couldn’t keep from giggling at their differences. Yet, I saw myself in my little Ruby that day.

Looking at a stream, one part smooth and peaceful and the other side rough and rocky, I would definitely rather pass through the calm side. 

Just like in life.

I would never choose to go through rough terrain. I would avoid hardships, if possible, no doubt about it.

But what Ruby didn’t know that day and what I often forget is that the rocks are what make the music.

The soothing sounds of the stream that draw us in on our walks aren’t created by the still side. They don’t come from the calm, peaceful, freely flowing stream. No, the sounds are created from the friction. The music is made where the rocks pop up and break the flow of water. The water is forced into a different direction, made to find a new path, sometimes swirling in on itself, forming foam and bubbles, until it finds its way back down the stream.

The disruption and rocky terrain make the music that draws us in. The chaos makes space for the beautiful.

I’m trying to remind myself of that during these uncertain days.

The Bible stories that bring me the most comfort are the ones full of rocky terrain. Joseph, met with chaos and disruption every step of the way, is a picture of God’s faithfulness.

David, living a life of war and danger and depression, shows me how to turn to God for my strength.

Ruth lost her husband and home and security. 

Esther was taken in as a concubine before she became a queen, risking her life to save her people. 

Sarah had lost all hope for a child.

Abraham, Hannah, Hosea, Judah, Paul, Lazarus -- we could be here all day naming these men and women whose lives bring comfort to us today.

Not one of them lived calm-stream lives. No, each one had twists and turns. Rocks and boulders. Swirls of confusion. Foam and bubbles of doubt and wrestling. Friction and the roar of conflict.

But that’s where the music was. That’s where God shined through, showing Himself faithful in the chaos.

Since becoming a mother, the scripture I lean on nearly every day is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

His strength is made perfect in our weakness. “Made perfect” in the Greek means to complete, to accomplish, finish, and fulfill. His strength is made perfect, it is accomplished, in my weakness.

I want His strength in my life. I want His miraculous power. But I won’t see His strength made perfect if I live in the calm stream. I won’t experience the glory of His saving grace if I never face hardship or if I avoid the difficult paths. I won’t be able to access His miracles if I live a life without displaying my weakness.

Everyone has rocky seasons -- conflict, hardships, fear, heartache. Everyone goes through times of discouragement and doubt, seasons that don’t look like what you had hoped or expected. You may long for the quiet stream. For all the answers to fall into place. For all obstacles to dissolve in front of you.

But then you would lose the music. Then you would lose that rocky place where God does His best work. His strength is made perfect when we have none. His strength shines the most glorious when we are slipping on the rocks, clinging to Him for our hope.

If you’re crossing rocky terrain today, I pray that God opens your ears to the music He hears coming from your situation. That you hear the tune of your faith being played out, the melody of your weakness revealing His strength. The sounds of His faithfulness through your trials.

He is here. He is with you. He is refining you and holding you. And it’s making such a beautiful sound.

Whitney Gothra

About Whitney Gothra

Whitney Gothra and her husband Timothy have been married for around fifteen years, and they have three sweet and spicy girls, Ruby, Selah, and Marigold. They pastor the Apostolic Church of Wabash in Wabash, Indiana. You can connect with her on Instagram @theflourishstudio or online at whitneygothra.com.