Balance Next to Chaos

9/29/2023   by Matt Lewellyn

We talk a lot in the Fog Life blog about the experience of being in that fog. The thought process, the emotional inner dialogues, the life patterns - that's all part and parcel of what this blog is about. People need to hear (and read) that they aren't alone, that they are living a shared experience, and that there is hope to continue on.

Today, though, let's switch gears. Those struggling in the fog are never alone in their experience, and they are rarely alone in physical reality. We exist within families, within friend networks, and within communities. And today, we need to talk about the other people around the suffering soul.

Many of us have family members who deal with constant, chronic pain. A growing number of us are becoming aware of the neurodivergent children in our lives - those on the spectrum, or having ADHD (or its more challenging cousins). Some of us grew up with parents who struggled with depression, with anxiety, or with other struggles in mental health.

This world of ours is broken enough that every one of us comes into contact with the hurting. Let's narrow that down - not just hurt, like going through a tough time hurt. I'm talking, every day is a struggle to go on kind of hurt. We may not always know who it is around us that's dealing with that - but rest assured, they're out there, and they're not so far away as you might think.

Many of us like to take as best control of our life stories as we possibly can. We plan out our days, we lay groundwork for large life goals, and we try to set our ducks in a row so things go our way. But for a lot of people, life happens to them - they may not have the energy, the focus, the balance to do that. And that's not to fault them - the fact is, few of us have the control over our stories we'd like.

But when you think you have yourself well-balanced, a prime test of that will come when you find yourself in close contact with someone who is not.

For example, I'm dad to a kid who has some of those acronyms that describe ways the brain processes things differently. And I can tell you: being in the presence of mental issues can make you be someone you don't want to be.

I've dealt with hours-long screaming, thrashing, defiance, and more. Of course, as a parent, that brings on good bit of chaos to challenge the way I'd like to parent. I want to be the fun dad who can be a bit laid back and make the dad jokes. But when some of these behaviors are an unfortunate possibility (and at times a likelihood), I find that I don't interact the way I want to. I end up going into battle plan mode.

Which means, I'm hyper-vigilant for any triggers I'm aware of for these meltdowns. I'm looking for the thing that sets it off this time, and I'm trying to remember all of the times before. It's a lot of energy spent on evaluating each moment to get or avoid an outcome.

And it throws me off balance. Even on my best days, this takes away from my command of my story. I want to be a certain kind of dad, but the circumstances challenge that. If I were well-balanced, I'd be able to more fluidly switch between battle mode and not. But with lack of balance necessarily comes rigidity - heavy anticipation of anything that can go wrong.

That's a reality many of us live out daily - that chaos is near, and that chaos can knock us off the beam. Whether it's a child, or a parent, or a coworker, or a neighbor, someone is close enough to push hard on our boundaries, and we may end up wanting therapy in the process.

We get a rather rude lesson in what we can do, and what we can't do. I can try to set my child up for success, but I cannot control my child. We can try our best to be balanced enough to absorb the blows. But we shouldn't be surprised when we are sometimes bowled completely over - we too have weakness.

Jesus is aware of our weakness. Of course, he experienced that weakness without sin, but he does sympathize. Now, Jesus was one who brought full balance and holy presence to everyone around him. Really, he still does, as he continues praying for all of God's children.

Sometimes, when we are filled with self-doubt because we've failed to maintain balance in the face of the chaos, it can be hard to look to Jesus. We've lost our temper, we've yelled, we've acted unfairly - we are so aware of our shortcomings that it's hard to look up to the one who is very perfect. Let's remember that part of his balance is confession and restoration.

It is legitimate to pray for our own mental health, wellness, and balance, so that we can be capable containers for the experience of others. If you have good balance, don't take it for granted - many of us do not. Let us all seek it from the one in whom all things hold together.



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