How Do I Keep From Crashing?

crashImagine yourself, relaxing, sitting back and just taking in every moment. There is nothing pressing for your time as you move slowly through the day. Your phone isn’t ringing, there is no one vying for your time and attention. You’re a little bit off the beaten path but feeling as if you’re completely disconnected (in the best way possible) from the real world.

Times like this may be few and far between for you and for me, but what happens when we find them and experience them? How do we react in the moment? How do we react when we leave that moment?

During my time away last week, I had a good deal of down time to myself. I was able to read, write, and relax without much distraction. If I was tired, I could rest. If I wanted to watch a movie, I could watch a movie. There was no one hanging on my heels, asking me boatloads of questions, and needing my undivided attention for every minute of every hour.

It was peaceful!

But I knew that there would come a time when I would have to go back to reality, when I would have to face the responsibilities that surround me on a normal and average day. I also knew that facing that reality would most likely hit me like a brick to the side of the head, hard, painful, and leaving me worse for wear.

No matter how hard I could have tried, I don’t think anything would have prepared me well for my reentry into the real world after my time away.

After sitting in my car for six hours (even my lunch was purchased at the drive-thru, a mistake I don’t know that I will duplicate), I arrived home to smiles on everyone’s face. One child was playing in the cul-de-sac, one child was watching TV, and one child was hanging on Mommy’s heels. Everyone exchanged hugs and I sat down to do my best to catch up with my wife.

Now, let me add a parenthetical detour here and say that my wife and I do our best to communicate as often as we can. I have found that face to face communication isn’t very easy with three children. There seems to be a radar on these little ones that goes off as soon as some amount of meaningful conversation begins to take place between the two adults in the house. It doesn’t matter whether kids are happily engaged in activities at the commencement of said conversation, somehow or another, as soon as the first meaningful words begin to emerge from either of our mouths, the interruptions commence!

We pushed through our conversation and into dinner, doing our best to be gracious through all of the interruptions and distractions. I kept my voice calm and even, all the while I was mentally reminding myself of the fact that in five or ten years, these kids will have turned into two-headed monsters who may or may not care what their mom and dad thinks.

Now, I had changed my plans to be back for my daughter’s pre-school program. My wife took her and my oldest to the school to get ready for that, while I took my younger son to baseball practice. He was none too happy about going to practice for some reason or another, and it eventually reared its ugly head.

After being asked to sit in the dugout because of his reaction out of frustration to a drill his team was doing, I grabbed him and we went to the car to try to ensure a decent seat at his sister’s program. My own frustration was more than brimming to the surface. I was ready to spill out any moment and the thing that caused the spill to take place was my son’s coughing to the point of spitting up, right in the back of my car, right when we got into the parking lot of the school for the program.

I called my wife to tell her of the latest development and of our impending lateness. As I drove home, my phone vibrated with a message from her asking how my son was doing. Still not having sufficiently cooled off, my text response was inappropriate. Unfortunately, in the close quarters at the school program, my oldest glanced down at my wife’s phone and saw my inappropriate response……[sigh]

Ugh! How many parenting fails could I possibly achieve in one evening? I thought that I might be setting a record for fails per hour considering that I had only been home for about two and a half hours at this point.

By the time we got back to the school, the program was over and we had missed it. Of course, this just set me off even further. I can’t even imagine what my blood pressure was at this point. I thought to myself, “Weren’t you just really calm for the past few days? How did the wheels come off so quickly?”

I’ve obviously not found the remedy for reentry. In my experience, it seems that the more relaxed and unwound that I get, the greater the challenge for me as I reenter the world of my own daily grind. They almost seem exponentially connected. The further retreated from reality I get, the harder it seems to get back into that reality again.

I’ve still got some time to work through this, to see if I can find a way to ease through the constant reentries that I will face in life. I am hoping that over the course of my sabbatical, I can work on reentry more. We’ll see how it goes.


spaceship-apollo-12After being away on and off for the last few weeks, today is the day of reentry. After reading about the number of disasters that have happened when something went wrong during reentry into the earth’s atmosphere, I’m glad that the danger isn’t quite as significant for me in my reentry into the reality of life as it is for those reentering the earth’s atmosphere.

Even though the danger isn’t as significant, there is still danger of burning up. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve figure out a graceful way to reenter reality after being engaged with think tanks and big thinking for the last few weeks. Ideas are ideas and they remain as such in our heads and even on the papers on which we write, the challenge always becomes the translation of ideas into reality. How do we take the concepts and ideas that we have heard, thought of, and even contemplated on for days, weeks, and even months, and translate them to reality?

When astronauts enter back into the earth’s atmosphere, they often travel at supersonic speeds, if we do that upon reentry of the reality of our lives, the likelihood of us burning up seems to be greater. A gradual reentry seems to be the most likely solution. Taking it easy and taking everything in stride is a much more viable alternative to jumping in headfirst, at least it is in ministry.

If not taking it easy, at least taking it with a healthy dose of reality. There is a tendency when those in ministry spend time dealing with lofty ideals to become as idealistic as the thoughts that they’ve been thinking about. I think about Moses coming down off of the mountain after communing with God. He’s got the two stone tablets that God gave to him and when he says what has become of the Israelites, he tosses them on the ground, breaking them.

I don’t think I can count the number of times that I’ve had my own “Moses” moments, especially upon reentry. Reality has a way of slapping you in the face, jarring you back from your dreams, and splashing the cold water of what’s really going on in your face. It’s inevitable, but you can at least be ready for it and prepare yourself.

As easy as it is to be discouraged upon reentry, it’s also easy to completely forget about the dreams that you had while you were on the mountain. Some ministry environments don’t leave room for that, others do. It’s important to find places where you can share those dreams and visions, the ones that ignited your heart while you spent time in the presence of God. They won’t be well received by all, but if you choose carefully, your dreams and visions can help to ignite the dreams and visions of those around you. Just like the need to ease into things, you might need to share gently as well, being fully aware that some things will be harder to translate.

I’m not sure if it will ever feel natural for me to ease back into things again, but as I build relationships with people and get to know those with whom I can easily share the vision, it makes the reentry less painful.