Facing Chaos is a series of nine articles about what I have learned over the years about dealing with the chaos, pain, and darkness that at times seems to overtake our lives.
The answer is yes: I did consult a thesaurus to discover the word Imbroglio. It means, “an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.”
Often the most ignored problems are the problems in our own hearts. We would rather try and fix things out there, instead of doing the difficult, messy, and painful work of addressing the problems within our own lives.
I have had numerous friends over the years who trained to be counsellors. One of the common things students in a counselling program have told me is how often they are forced to deal with their own issues as part of their training to help others. I found the same is true when studying conflict management. Our instructors repeatedly emphasized the importance of being a non-anxious presence, which is something remarkably difficult to do in the midst of a conflict. The only way to achieve this is to regularly deal with one’s own baggage and difficulty.
In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus says, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
Once as a teenager I sat in a church service while the pastor read this passage and began preaching on it. I looked around, and was disappointed to see that a particular someone was not attending church that Sunday. “I wish they would have been here,” I thought to myself, “They really need to hear this.” Then as if he had read my mind, we were challenged to listen to this ourselves, and that thinking others needed to hear it only revealed how much we truly needed this message. Ouch. But in a good way.
We don’t need to look far to see examples in our world where people live like this. In fact you’d likely only need to look in a mirror, but I will give a few examples other than a mirror, just to help round things out a bit.
When playing basketball, it is much easier to see where things go wrong when you look from the stands. You have a clear view of the whole court, you can see who is open for a pass or who is in a good place to take a shot. When one is playing on the court, there is a lot of running (which can be exhausting), you can’t see the whole court, and there are often other players blocking your view of who is open or how to get to a clear path to then net. Playing is much more difficult than watching. One can look like an expert about the game from the stands, but that doesn’t mean that they are actually any good at playing it.
In life none of us have the luxury of living it from the sidelines; we all have to actually live. Time is better spent getting better at living than criticizing the lives of everybody else.
Another common example is the arena of parenting. When we began having children, often the most opinionated people about parenting were those who did not have any children. Those who judged our parenting the harshest were likewise those without children themselves. Comments would abound that sounded like, “When I have kids, my kids will never behave like that.” At first this kind of condescension really bothered me, but after awhile I would just smile at the fact that when they would have children, they would have a rather rude awakening to the nature of children and parenting.
Yes, the most ignored imbroglio is often the troubles within our own heart. It is easier, safer, and more comfortable to pass judgment on others. This makes us feel spiritual, wise, superior, and accomplished. Yet this approach completely ignores the areas of chaos in our own lives, and the temporary pleasure we get from judging others only further delays the needed healing for our souls.
Friends, as we partner with God to bring order to the chaos of the world, let us not forget about the chaos in our own hearts, minds and souls. In fact let us all begin there, but let us not end there. Like the counsellor who deals with their own baggage to become someone able to help others find healing, or like the mediator who has done the difficult inner work to become a non-anxious presence in the midst of conflict, so too we find healing in order to be a blessing to others in the world. God brings order to our chaos for a reason. Just as Abraham was blessed to be a blessing to others (see Genesis 12), so too God desires to heal you so that you may be given great purpose in God’s kingdom.