Chaos is part of transformation. Before we can experience transformational change, we’ve got to experience the disorganization of chaos while a new reality is underway. Why must we face chaos, how do we navigate it, and what is the difference between destructive and constructive chaos?

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Embracing the Chaos of Life and Leadership

Lately we feel like we are living inside a tornado. I really thought things would slow down after June 28, but they haven’t. Its not so much the pace as it is the chaos. We are on a journey through chaos.

  • Packing out my office and bringing a lot of boxes home with no where to put them. 
  • Deanna and Ashley both preparing to move out and “staging” all of their stuff wherever they can find a place.
  • Two pre-schoolers living in the house for a month, and they are joyfully coming back for 3 or 4 more!
  • The transitions of work and calling
  • The processes involved in our “next steps”
  • The reality of finding pace and pattern for the fulfillment of all the things in our hearts.

Chaos is defined ( as “a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.” It is “any confused, disorderly mass.”

Seldom do we experience a “total” lack of order, but it can surely feel like it when certain segments of our lives are chaotic. Thankfully, most of the time, it is just pieces of our lives or organization in chaos and not everything. 

Why is Chaos Necessary?

Remember, creation of the heavens and earth involved the organization of chaos. Some people believe their was a world here before this one and it fell into utter chaos. God brought order to the chaos and transformation resulted. 

Think of the potter putting a formless lump of clay on his wheel and shaping it, bringing order to the chaos of the lump, until they form a work of art. 

We start with chaos and move to transformational order. 

When we are not where we need to be, we must first journey through chaos so proper transformational order can be established, rather than continuing to build upon a flawed direction or design. 

To experience needed transformation, we must journey through chaos. The chaos may be spontaneous or intentional, but necessary either way. 

A common analogy used in teaching transformation theory is that of unfreezing, moving, and refreezing. The thought is that things get locked into an established routine or order, we have to unfreeze the routines, move them, and then re-establish order by refreezing them. 

What we’ve (David and Donna) done is unfreeze our lives. We blew up the established order and we are moving it. When you blow up routine and order, it creates chaos, but you cannot transform your life or organization unless you can move it. 

Perfectionism is the enemy. Highly orderly people remain static. Slow and steady is good, but the greater the perfectionism quotient the more resistant we are to change and transformation. 

Some Calibration Tools…

  • What transformations do you want to see in your life or organization? 
  • Identify the chaos that may or will be created on the path to those transformations? 
  • How might you need to “break the ice” and initiate some chaos? 
  • Relationally, what conflict “tunnels” will you enter on purpose in order to initiate transformation?

Embracing Chaos

I organized the garage the other day. We moved things around, I went through all of my tools and containers and reorganized everything. For the first time in my life, I know exactly the tools I have and I know where everything is. I’ve become more effective and efficient. I can complete projects in a mere fraction of the time as before. 

What did it take? I had to spread everything out on the floor. It took days of sorting and finding logical places for everything. Days. It was chaos and it was chaotic. At times, I stood in the middle of the garage floor frustrated and overwhelmed. 

Organization is a very good and necessary thing, but sometimes you have to blow things up, disorganize everything, and then put it back together the way it should be. 

Practically speaking, my life was orderly, it was predictable, it was comfortable, it was organized. That is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with an orderly life. Problem was, when I consider the two most difficult things I’ve had to do recently, one, the path of grief, and second, quitting my job. In the former my life spontaneously exploded and descended into chaos, in the latter, I created the chaos in order to experience the desired transformations. 

In both instances, my life was transformed. 

Right now, we’ve descended into chaos. We’ve got stuff spread out all over the proverbial garage floor and we are listening and trying to figure out where everything needs to go to get where we want to be. 

Creating Chaos…

We’ve created chaos in our lives through our decisions. Why? I surely do not like chaos. I do not like chaos. So, Why? For the same reason I pulled all the boxes and containers off the shelves and dumped them all over the garage floor. We needed to change paths. We needed to come to a new level of established direction and organization in our lives. 

It creates turmoil and chaos when we dismantle our beliefs and perceptions of how things work to embrace a higher calling. Crucifixion is chaos. 

When your life spontaneously blows apart in spite of your best efforts to follow the ways of Christ, pay attention. This is the chaos, this is the tornado, this is the disruption and dismantling of things on the path to growth and transformation. 

When you are in one place and know you are to get to another place, what must you “unfreeze”? Be careful with “blowing up” stuff. Think in terms of “unfreezing” so you can get movement in your life. 

Destructive Chaos…

There’s a difference between destructive chaos and beneficial chaos. Destructive chaos is initiated through immaturity or wrong motivations. How do you know the difference? Ask yourself the question, “What is the transformation I seek and what are my motivations in seeking the transformation?” Is the transformation a good transformation or is it a destructive change. For example, the chaos following a decision to have an adulterous affair and seek a divorce is destructive chaos. It is not redemptive transformation. 

Constructive chaos identifies the reasons for the urgencies, the desired outcomes, and a willingness to embrace tension and disorganization for the purpose of pursuing a desired destination. It is building the bridge as you walk on it, figuring things out as you go, disrupting the way things are so adjustments can be initiated that lead to the desired future. 

Calibration Tools… Calibrating Your Life and Lifting Those you Love and Lead

  • Are you in a tornado? Are you experiencing a sense of chaos in your life or organization? What do you think that means? Is the chaos an indicator of growth and transformation or is it destructive? If it is an indicator of growth, how must you manage it, communicate it, and lead it? If it is destructive, what are the remedies? 
  • If you are leading yourself, those you love and lead, or your organization toward transformation, what disruptions must you initiate? What chaos must you, and those you lead walk through? Again, how will you communicate inevitable chaos and manage it? How will you gain buy-in?
  • Do not initiate chaos or disruption until you’ve evaluated the relational impact and whether or not the results are worth the ensuing chaos. Think about the Chaos:Results ratio.


The risks of great adventures always create challenges to be navigated and overcome. Those challenges feel chaotic, but they are necessary for positive change and transformation.

Next Week

How to intentionally lead and navigate chaos toward transformation.