Life can become chaotic with sudden changes. The fall of Baghdad was one of those moments, for both soldier and resident. Even if we've never had to find our way through the "fog of war," most of us have known disruption in lesser degrees - a friendship broken, a home invaded by crime, or unsettling financial losses.
But many of us have also experienced the happiness of restoration. Perhaps the fabric of family or friend connections has been rewoven, even made stronger. Businesses have been rebuilt, sometimes literally up from the ashes. Economies have rebounded from recession or depression, some on a more rational footing.
But are those restorations random acts of grace from a fickle Deity? Or maybe just the upside of cycles, such as bull and bear market cycles? Those explanations have their proponents.
On the other hand, there are universal, transcendent laws of life that actually impel restoration - laws that we understand today only in fragmentary and imperfect ways.
A popular notion is that Isaac Newton saw a falling apple and - voilà - he discovered the law of gravity. But Newton believed that major discoveries, his own included, required years of contemplation. Then perhaps Psalm 119 offers a model for discovery: "O how love I thy [God's] law! It is my meditation all the day" (verse 97). Order grows in the climate of everyday love of higher laws. Disorder certainly prospers where a me-first attitude prevails, or where laws themselves are oppressive or unjust.
A reporter for the BBC observed recently that the most pressing needs in Iraq are reconstruction, human rights, and representative government, and that the latter two will be much harder to achieve than the first. And there is an even more basic need - square one, if you will - in the restoration of reason and morale in Iraq. As was the case in countries freed from communist oppression over a decade ago, release from an oppressive Iraqi regime has been accompanied by disorder and loss of self-control, including the looting of 7,000 years of a whole culture's history at the National Museum of Iraq.
Thankfully, though, the higher laws of restoration and order aren't confined by denominational or ethnic lines. They exist as much in Baghdad as in New York or London. Contemplating those laws and their beneficial effects is a way of adding light rather than heat to the situation on the ground.
And it's not wishful thinking to expect that as lives and businesses are restored in Iraq, even priceless antiquities can be returned to the peoples' national museum. It can only help for each of us to give consent to the higher laws that impel spontaneous moral remission.
In Iraq and Afghanistan - as well as in Congo and Sierra Leone and many other nations where oppression, ethnic conflict, armed conflict, and economic troubles have devastated peoples' lives and livelihoods - people cry out for the chance to rebuild. They yearn for the renewal that comes with a new growing season. We join them in that desire, in their prayer for a return to harmony.
In her short book "Unity of Good," Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "The chaos of mortal mind is made the stepping-stone to the cosmos of immortal Mind [God]" (pg. 56). And millenniums ago, the Jewish prophet Joel heard God promise to restore the years that the locusts had eaten.
Every year in temperate climates, winter gives way to spring. Dry season yields to rainy season in the tropics. The timing is variable, and this year some of us in Boston have felt gripped by a winter that wouldn't end. Yet it has ended. The change of seasons - like the return of warmth to a relationship chilled for a season - offers just a hint of the power and promise of God's law of restoration.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.