Chaos Management

Have you ever lost control of your car on an icy or wet road? It is terrifying isn’t it? The crazy thing about losing control on the road is that the more you try to regain control by overcorrecting, the worse the problem gets. Another way to say that is…

The more you grasp for control, the less control you have.

Which brings me to my next topic.

Control is an illusion. I know, that is a super depressing thing to say but we’ve all heard that before haven’t we? The dangerous part about that statement is that it is a partial truth.

In other words, there are many things outside of our control. Let’s take what happens within any given day. Sure, you’ve made plans and for the most part, you’ve executed some of those plans. However, weren’t there a few things that interrupted your checklist? Maybe it was a phone call that made you late for a meeting. Perhaps your car broke down right after being in the shop. Maybe one of your kids came down with a wicked cold or a stomach bug and now your day is focused on getting a doctor’s appointment and picking up meds from the pharmacy. There are countless variables within any day that might throw your master plan off its axis. There are days where it seems like nothing is within your control and the more you try to control the things that are outside of your control, the less control you have.

Before we go any further, I don’t have a magic potion nor do I have a cure all for your issues or problems. What I do have is a particular set of skills, to quote Liam Neeson, that have helped me during times of chaos and spiritual vertigo. I’d like to think of them as Chaos Management Tools. In moments of helplessness or drift, these four things help keep my feet on the ground and my soul tethered to something permanent. These are the things that I have some amount of control over. Of course, for me all of these practices point to my relationship with Jesus. Here we go:

Limit The Noise – Put the phone down. Press pause on streaming. Limit your time with the news. Find some time before your day starts or before it ends to spend in a relatively quiet space and just…be.

Try not to look at your checklist. Do your best not to be stressed by world events that you cannot control. Put your phone out of reach or flip it over. Just breathe in and exhale out.

I like to fill this time with prayer and on meditating on a few verses in the Bible. I might focus on a verse and sometimes I’ll focus on one word in that verse. I pray for God’s guidance in knowing what to do with what I uncover.

I keep that time simple on purpose. It doesn’t have to be an hour or even thirty minutes but it does need to be enough time to sit without being restless. That sometimes takes awhile. If I can pray, read and possibly write, I’m good. That fills my tank and makes me feel human again. It also gives me a chance to connect spiritually with God and listen. Whether I get direction or not, it is a good practice. It keeps me in a position of wanting to hear from God and the more I do it, the more direction I get.

Adjust Your Attitude. You’ve probably heard the Winston Churchill quote, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Well, Winston was right. Yes, I knew him that well that I could just use his first name. Just understand that I dialed it back a little bit. I was going to call him Winnie. Moving on.

Attitude does make a big difference and there are a lot of things surrounding us that contaminate our attitude or posture toward the world and others. The more we can avoid rage, bitterness and despair, the better our attitude is. If we feed it a steady diet of those things, we will find ourselves in a bad space.

Aside from avoiding harmful emotions, embracing an attitude of humility always helps me. If I get caught up on what I deserve or what people owe me, I’m sunk. I am not suggesting you become a human doormat and allow people to walk all over you. I am suggesting that there is a posture that I sometimes have, that makes every situation about me. When I do that, every conflict I encounter becomes personal. The problem with that is, it usually isn’t personal. Maybe someone else has had a bad day or they are struggling emotionally. It often isn’t about you. I’ve heard it said, as you probably have as well, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

Here are a few verses that I’ve found helpful in addressing the topic of attitude:

Proverbs 29:11; Ephesians 4:23; Ephesians 4:31-32; Philippians 2:5; Philippians 2:14; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:15

Life Giving Practices. I have already mentioned meditation but what about prayer? For me, meditation and prayer go hand in hand but it doesn’t always. I’m talking about praying for the sake of connecting with God, not praying out of some sense of duty or drudgery. Sure, prayer can be asking God for things. It can also be just talking to Him about how you are feeling. Try that for 1 or 2 minutes. Just tell God how frustrated you are in this season. Tell Him about the doubts that you are having about Him and your future. Express to Him your anxiety about world events or relationships that seem to be failing. Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to pray for everyone in our lives and the “important” things going on in our world, that we neglect expressing what is on our heart to a Father who cares for His child. That’s you. God cares about you and sure, He already knows what is on your heart, but He also wants you to feel safe enough to tell Him about it. So go ahead and tell Him.

Another practice often neglected is keeping the Sabbath. I know, that last one gave you the heebie jeebies. Maybe the term “keeping the Sabbath” is something a strict Sunday school teacher or legalistic pastor said to you once. Maybe just look at it as stopping and worshipping. Stop the regular flow of your life once a week, whether that is Sunday or Tuesday, and just be with God. Take a walk. Read Scripture. Create an artwork, if you are into that kind of thing. I often find God when I am writing in my journal or…writing a blog to be honest. Whatever you need to do, in order to disrupt the natural rhythm in your life and communion with God, do it. You will have to schedule it and make it a regular part of each week though. Then it will take root.

God created the Sabbath for you. He knows how we are wired and what we need. We need margin in our lives and a strong connect to HIm.

“Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27.

For a great treatment of observing a day of rest or slowing down in general, take a look at “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer.

Sure, there are weeks where these practices don’t get as much attention as they should but the more I stick to them, the less I feel like my life is being controlled by the chaos. These are things I can control and that give me more of a footing in my life and help restore my humanity. I hope it can do the same for you.

Matt

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