Chaos is a funny thing. Sometimes it overwhelms me. The cacophony consumes me. Other times, it swirls about me perfectly choreographed so that it comes ever close but never actually touches me. Like a Square Dance caller who yells “Swing Left” at the precise moment when “swing right” would have all the madness crash into me.
(Don’t tell me you didn’t Square Dance in junior high. It’s an American right of passage. Or at least, I thought.)
If we are not careful, chaos or it’s “City Mouse” cousin, “busyness,” can become our drug of choice. In the middle of pandemonium, we can simultaneously find ourselves tucked away in a cocoon of solitude while giving the appearance of being engaged. Like drugs, alcohol, technology, and other addictions numb that part of our brains that are truly present – busyness and chaos do the same.
Appearing to be present is a whole lot easier than actually being present. Being fully engaged in the moment, requires facing the reality of whatever our particular situations may be and still being open to the new experiences that continue to unfold along the way.
Sometimes – that just sucks. Reality isn’t always pretty. Frankly, the new stuff isn’t always better. Sometimes it just feels better to bypass reality all together.
Being present demands more of us than we think we can give. During difficult times, I’d almost prefer walking a literal tightrope across the Grand Canyon that to slide my heart out onto the figurative one that spans reality and what is yet to be. I’d rather teeter more than 2,000 feet above the Colorado River than to dangle over the darkness of difficult days.
My fear of heights and a myriad of county and state permitting issues will likely make it impossible for me to ever traipse across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. However, there is nothing standing between me and life’s tightrope. The tentacles of life’s tightrope take ahold of us before we have a chance to grab a pole for balance or check the security of our safety nets.
As the holidays approach, the chaos increases and the ability to remain present is further challenged – even when we desire to be engaged. The bittersweet tension between what was, what is, and what should be is more difficult to bear. Things simply are not the way they should be, and it is even more apparent at this time of the year. Memories of missing loved ones vie for attention with family and friends gathered around our tables the way jack-o-lanterns jockey for shelf space with Santa’s helpers – all before Pilgrims and turkeys get their fifteen minutes of fame.
Things aren’t the way they are supposed to be.
Does all of this holiday hullabaloo have you in a panic? Join the crowd. You are not alone. This season tends to spotlight how out of sync this world is. Yet, if we stand rooted in what we’ve lost, we’ll never experience what there is still to gain.
Death’s greatest victory is to keep us rooted in our loss, our pain, and our regret. One of Love great victories is displaying the courage to move forward (not to be confused with “moving on”).
My prayer for each one of us as we spiral full steam ahead into the holiday season – Please, Father send your Spirit to comfort each of our broken hearts. Give us the strength to count our memories as blessings. Open our eyes and hearts to new memories and new blessings. Let us be present with family, friends, and ourselves. Give us the grace to help ourselves so that we may help others. We pray all of this in your Son Jesus’ name.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.