The Damage of Crisis-Mode Living
Crisis-mode living is when you spend almost every waking moment trying to figure out how to keep all your plates spinning in the air. In crisis mode, you keep running faster and faster, from project to project, deadline to deadline, quota to quota, meeting to meeting, folding laundry to carpool to . . . you get the picture. Your life’s RPM is in the red, and you believe you have no other option but to keep on running, faster and faster. You fear that if you stop, the plates will crash. And frankly, some of the plates will crash if you stop; but if you don’t stop soon, the results likely will be much more damaging to the physical, emotional and spiritual health of you and your family.
When we live in crisis mode for too long, we begin to skim relationally. Virtually all our relationships are damaged by hurry. Many families are relationally starved because of overcommitment and fatigue. If you are married, your bond with your spouse, which was once strong and intimate, becomes weak and distant. Sometimes our children lie wounded, run over by high-speed intentions. Our children have watched more videos than is healthy, simply because we don’t have the strength to spend time with them. When we skim relationally, friendships slip away. We quit our support groups and miss our family outings. We find our relationships fading. Friendships that were deep and meaningful are now shallow. Casual relationships hardly even exist. Pretty soon no one has access to our souls.
Crisis mode even causes us to skim spiritually. What was once a burning desire to serve God has become relegated to a few prayers and a dull faith—the kind of faith that we said we would never have. In Eugene Peterson’s beautiful translation of the Bible, THE MESSAGE, he paraphrases the apostle Paul, who was talking about people like you and me:
They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling (Rom. 9:32).
Crisis-mode living also causes us to skim emotionally. When we are too busy, we tend to ignore the emotional side of our lives. We may find our anger flares up more than it used to, and we don’t take the time to figure out why. Our patience with our children wears thin. We quit paying attention to feelings like hurt, sadness or guilt. We become mechanical soldiers marching through our days—just doing what’s necessary while we stuff our feelings deeper and deeper inside. We’re emotionally depleted, but we keep on pushing. The results aren’t pretty!
When we live in crisis mode, we also neglect dealing with the problems and issues in our lives. One of my experiences in the spa—the most relaxing spot in the world for me—illustrates this truth all too well.
One night (many years ago), we were going to have a family meeting in the hot tub—my daughters know I’m a pushover when I’m sitting in the spa. I love to sit there; when I turn up the heat and turn on the jets, my burdens seem to disappear. On this night, as in most times my family soaks in the spa together, I had gotten in a good 10 minutes before my wife and my daughters did—why it takes men so much less time than women to change clothes and put on a swimsuit, I have no idea. Actually, I didn’t mind, because those jets felt so good against my back and my pressures were fading away.
The jets stopped, and as I soaked in the hot, still water, I noticed that our spa was filthy. We had recently experienced a windstorm, and the spa had collected leaves, dirt and just plain old grime. I had been sitting in filth, but because the jets were churning up all the dirt, I hadn’t even noticed. As I heard the girls and Cathy coming, I realized I had two options: I could either take the time to get out of the spa and clean all the grease and grime, or I could quickly turn the jets back on so that my family would not realize they were sitting in dirty water. So what did I do? Need you ask? I quickly turned those jets back on, and we had our family meeting in our polluted spa. My wife and daughters never knew!
Unfortunately, too many of us live our lives like that. We seldom take the time to deal with our life issues and problems; instead, we just keep on pushing, hoping that the marriage will get better or that the subtle, negative signs we see in our kids will disappear by themselves. Well, they won’t. For too many years, I have heard myself say to Cathy, “As soon as we get past this season in our lives, then it will slow down.” But as seasons turn into years, crisis mode continues for many of us, giving us more reasons to skim relationally, emotionally and spiritually. A solid, healthy family builds margin into their lives and deals with their problems before they become catastrophes.