Room For Meltdowns

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There is nothing like a little time and space to reveal what’s underneath something. Sometimes, life gets moving so fast that we can’t find the time to be still and take a really good look at what’s beneath the surface of our busy lives and our busy hearts and our busy minds. We think everything is going along just fine…at warp speed…when, really, there is much that’s worth addressing where we cannot find the time to look.

So, when a hiccup in our plans presents itself – such as a meltdown – our way of handling it often looks like finding the quickest way to fix it – to quiet it down and get it under control (I’m speaking from a mother’s perspective, obviously). And once we have, we breathe a sigh of relief, consider it averted, and resign it to the “I’ll deal with it later, when I have more time” pile. That time, of course, never – or rarely – comes.

I have small children, one of which has frequent meltdowns. I’ve just always chalked it up to her being an emotional child, and done my best to get her back to calm as quickly and effectively as possible. Recently, I’ve decided it would probably be beneficial for both of us if I help her to become a little more aware of her emotions and how to process them. So I’ve begun to teach her some “emotional intelligence.” However, the current crisis we are facing has confronted me with multiple meltdowns, in multiple lives and relationships, and has exposed a greater reality which must be confronted – one I can’t teach my way through.

As we are still facing pandemic-related orders to shelter-in-place, and now have LOTS more time together as a family, I am seeing meltdowns of many kinds. They don’t all look like tantrums. Some of them look like much-needed decompression processes. Some of them look like evasion techniques and the emergence of new conflicts. But underneath all of them, I can see that our truths are starting to leak. The things which have become covered up by all of the ceaseless activities are beginning to show themselves. The layers of distraction are melting away, and the real “us” is beginning to peek out at me.

Before, when we had a ton of things to get done, and schedules overlapped, and we kept a frantic pace that only paused for sleep and prayer, it was easy to move past hiccups at lightning speed with quick fixes. As long as everything and everyone could be snapped right back into place, we could just keep moving. It seemed that very little in our lives required much of a pause. Sometimes, to be honest, our life together felt like a “hot potato” game. Or like smearing frosting over the crumbling edges of a cake, just to smooth out all the rough patches and keep the celebration going.

I realize this is pretty normal in a family with multiple children. Tasks have to be shared, responsibilities divvied up, and schedules worked out creatively. I’ve always insisted that we prioritize time for connection in the midst of the chaos, but connection has never really had a fair chance of getting past the surface.

Sure, we vacation together, and those times have been great, allowing us to catch our breath and renew our focus. But for the most part, we return to business as usual upon going back home, picking up the same frantic pace and running on adrenaline and new assignments. Responsibilities have kept our motors running, and our routines have become a comfortable way of measuring our progress. Auto-pilot was never something we intended to run on, but it has become an inevitable result of managing too much, as we have aimed for a good life and a healthy, motivated, Jesus-loving family. In the name of good goals, we have adopted hurdles that are just too high and too consistent to allow for what we had set our hearts on.

It happens to us all.

But now, as we have lots of time for examining what’s really taken place beneath our frantic and over-committed lives, we have the opportunity to clear some ground. To pull some weeds, so to speak. I do not have a good eye for anything related to gardening, so weeds look to me a whole lot like flowers. I’ve been known to clip them and put them on a vase on my table, not knowing that they are deadly little things that choke the life out of healthy plants! As I take a good look at the decompressing I am witnessing in my home and family, the image of weeds seems like a good way to describe many of the activities we have busied ourselves with, only to crowd out some of the most important processes for real growth and connection.

What I have not previously had the time or energy to wade through, I now do. And chances are, so do you. The bold question is: will we choose to use this time to face the meltdowns we’ve been avoiding?

I have the unique opportunity to study my children right now, and to study my marriage and myself, recognizing needs that often go unmet and fears that frequently get buried in the blur of activities we routinely engage in. I have the time to search more deeply, to ask questions, to see the bigger picture. I have time to grieve, to reconsider, and even to reposition myself and really think about where and how I want to – and should – spend my energy. I have the chance to make room for meltdowns, rather than try to avoid them, so that I can connect more deeply to the hearts of my husband and children, and pay closer attention to my own heart.

Much is lost on the roller coaster of a life that moves too fast. As I settle into the time we’ve been given, I am recognizing that accomplishments and accumulations are a poor exchange for authentic connection. I don’t want to go back to business-as-usual. And I don’t honestly think God wants us to, either.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, what is melting down for you? What issues have been brought to the surface of your life and relationships during this recent crisis and command to be still? Is God revealing areas that need to be addressed at a deeper level, and are you willing to weed out the unnecessary in order to embrace the sacred?

Now is a very good time to look closely at what drives your life, and to put down anything that God did not design as a motivator. Healthy relationships with Him, with ourselves, and with our loved ones are at the heart of the gospel. We cannot be effective witnesses to the world unless and until the gospel we believe in has transformed these key places in our lives.

Are you loving well? Are you living according to God’s priorities? Do you have room for meltdowns, for God to allow what’s underneath to rise to the surface and be dealt with? It’s not always pretty, but it’s a very important part of staying healthy, and a crucial piece to real and lasting connection. Do you have room for the pain in your life? The disappointments? The questions? Do you have the room and time for what others are carrying, and so desperately want and need to share instead of hide?

If the answer is no, or if the consideration of the question comes with dread and anxiety, chances are pretty good that the ground of your life has been cleared because God wants to make new room for what matters most: the people before us.

I am a pursuer of revival, believing God longs to pour it out over the whole world. But I recognize that revival won’t be like a carnival that comes to town. It must start with me. My life must be overhauled. I must become the space God can occupy, and when He sends people my way, I must have something real to offer them. If the ground of my life is cluttered with my own plans and I’ve become so overwhelmed with projects and responsibilities and needs and expenses to even love the people in front of me well, then I am not ready for the more I say I want.

May you use this time wisely, and become relentless in your pursuit of getting to the bottom of all the “stuff” you’ve accumulated, so that you can make room for what God has really designed you to carry. My prayer is that this will be an awakening for God’s people, and that we will prioritize healthy connection again. No more hiding behind busy schedules and “important” work. The most important work is loving God and people well, and that must begin with making room for each other – meltdowns and all.

If we are going to love others the way God loves us, and if we are going to become healthy enough to live completely in the light, then we are going to have to embrace that God takes no shortcuts and attaches no generic processes to growth. He reserves the right to interact with us uniquely, based on our individual needs. And He desires that we give others the same honor and consideration.

So, starting now, may God give us fresh eyes with which to see into each other’s hearts, become safe places full of room for each other’s real lives, and slow down enough to connect authentically and grow deeply together. It might look different than we expected it to, but I believe these are the roots of revival.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

 

 


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