From Calm to Crisis and Back Again
The concept of “calm” is not hard to define in the arena in which we work and lead. Sometimes it's as simple as the absence of something. You know what I mean. When cranky people are busy elsewhere, when unexpected surprises are off the radar or when no one has shown up for hours with those familiar four words - “You got a minute?” - that kind of thing. Of course, calm is also wonderful solitude in the midst of God’s creation. It is the satisfaction felt when budgets actually balance and the sounds of kids having fun. Calm brings a smile to your face and a stress reducing sigh from deep in your soul. Calm reminds you of why you do what you do. Are you feeling it?
Crisis, on the other hand, comes unbidden, unexpected and with the clear intention of wreaking havoc on your calm. Crisis is not the difficulties you work through on a regular basis nor the things that stretch your problem solving skills to the max. Crisis smacks you along the side of the head with enough force to break your stride. Crisis sucks the faith out of the room while inviting in fear and doubt. In crisis, when you find a moment to breathe, you ask yourself questions like “how did this happen and happen so fast?”. There is a surreal aura that settles over you that evokes a degree of bewilderment you never expected. If you have gone through crisis recently you probably know what I mean.
Jesus says if I am weary I am to come to HIm and He will give me rest - something crisis has no room for whatsoever. He says to take His yoke on my shoulders and I say, “thank you very much but there is enough there already without adding something else”. And then, since I live in the 21st century I admit, “what’s a yoke anyway?”. It’s then I realize He isn’t talking about another burden to bear but a means to distribute the weight of the burden already there. This gives me pause because I can hear the calm, deep inside of me, calling out, “there is no such thing as good burden!”. What ‘calm’ has wrong (I’m learning) is that the goal is never the absence of burden or even the absence of crisis. The goal is to allow God to manage my crisis - to spread the weight of it out so I can bear it and even learn from it. (Calm is annoyed with that thought process.)
I have discovered this year that crises sometimes have the tendency to pile on top of each other. And with that I have learned there is no rhythm of moving from calm to crisis and back again. Sometimes the calm in your life has a good run and sometimes crises have a hay day. And by the very nature of a crisis you can never prepare for its coming. And the nature of calm is that it tends to lull you into a false security that leaves you unprepared for the next time you get knocked sideways. So what does one do?
Well, I have a pocket full of cliche’s that normally I would trot out right about now. I would remind myself that God is in control and that He loves me and that He brings good out of bad and that He is giving me opportunities to trust Him and I would be right. Problem is that crises have the tendency to eat cliches for lunch or, at least, to smother them in self pity. As a result I realize that the answer is not found in words but in relationship. As leaders we are in the business of building relationships everywhere we turn. But if our relationship with God is not a priority then there is no way we will navigate through crisis.
Our relationship with God tells us that He is fully engaged in everything from calm to crisis. It also tells us that while relationship is about talking it is also about listening. If we think God is quiet or inactive in crisis then we aren’t paying attention. And if we feel that God is not concerned about our burden, then we need to learn a bit more about yokes. May God give us the grace to do just that.
Then Jesus said, Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light". (Mt. 11:28-30 NLT)