I don’t know about you, but I struggle when I am feeling out of control. I am a recovering perfectionist and control freak, which means my tendency is to try to order my circumstances, surroundings and the people around me so I can feel peaceful. When things feel orderly, predictable and my to-do list is done, I feel peaceful. The problem is that rarely (if ever!) happens, so it is easy to feel stuck in the chaos, with no peace in sight.
Recently Jesus has been challenging me to find His peace and calm in the midst of the chaos. He has been helping me embrace the mess and find joy in it. That may sound simple to you, but for me it has been very hard – and very rewarding.
I’m discovering my need to be in control stems from a fear of what I would feel if I have to face something tragic and painful. For instance, if one son is unkind to his brother, and it seems to be a pattern I can’t stop, I feel overwhelmed and out of control. I feel like if I don’t get this under control my son will grow up to be a horrible human being that no one likes and it will be all my fault because I failed as his mother. Yes, I know, that’s pretty extreme. While these are not my conscious thoughts at the moment, the intensity of my reaction would make you think saying something mean was a life or death situation.
When I was young, I had lots of big feelings about hard circumstances from my childhood and those feelings were overwhelming to me. I didn’t have the tools to recover from those big feelings and so began my habit of avoiding my feelings that is still my default. (Yes, even after 20 years of practicing relational skills, my unhelpful childhood patterns can still rear their ugly heads!) Jesus is helping me learn to embrace my big feelings as they come up and get through the other side rather than avoiding or stuffing them. He meets me in those distressing emotions and helps me find His peace even in the midst of my unknowns, undones, and should dos.
Finding Jesus in the big feelings means I can handle whatever He allows to come my way because He will be with me in it and I’m not alone in my feelings, even if the worst case scenario materializes. Walking this journey with Jesus allows me to be much more present with my family even when things are chaotic and messy. His presence helps me find joy in the journey rather than holding out for when I reach the destination.1