Rohr: 3 Boxes

Richard Rohr: 3 boxes

“Let’s think in terms of what I call ‘the three boxes:’ order > disorder > reorder.”

Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation, July 14, 2017, Adapted from Richard Rohr, “How Do We Get Everything to Belong?” disc 2 (CAC: 2004), CD, MP3 download; and Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 43-44, 101, 158-159, 171.


We can identify with Rohr’s stages or boxes. We begin our lives trying to find order. If we try to stay in order, safety and control, we end up only serving ourselves. Rohr believes that conservatives become trapped in this phase needing order while progressives may get stuck in this next disorder phase. As we move out of ourselves and interact with others we indeed experience disorder or chaos.

We spend the first half of our lives trying to make order out of this chaos, living as children in an adult world, sibling rivalries, adolescence, being teenagers, trying to become adults, finding careers, raising families. It nearly kills our minds and our relationships and our bodies.

The Quaker writer, Parker Palmer, writes in Let Your Life Speak about one of the failures of leaders is an inability to accept chaos. The Genesis story of creation from the get go reminds us that creation comes out of chaos. I so admire children and youth leaders at our church and in our schools. They better than any of us daily see and admire and appreciate creation out of chaos. The “quick fix” to chaos and the wounds to our egos are only Band-Aids that easily come off in our next scrimmage, and the wound becomes gaping and deeper.

Spiritual friends are taught to share with each other the gold and creativity in their chaos or at least wait and live in it a little longer until we can see a little glimpse of the treasure or reordering it will bring to our lives.

Rohr cautions us not to look for the quick fix. As we become older, we learn that our wounds become our teachers. Life experiences daily can teach us that holding the tension between order and chaos to a reordering of our lives is acceptance, gratitude, and living in the present.

This again also is called resurrection.