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My Default Mode of Operation

My default mode of dealing with difficult situations is to fly under the radar. Or if I can't do that, I shut down until I can get out of there, analyze the situation, research, ask advice, and then formulate a new plan for moving forward.

In fact, if I take any personality test, they'll tell me, this is my strength. This is what I'm good at: separating myself from the problem, observing, analyzing, seeing many possible solutions, and choosing the best one. This mode of operation is like my protective shell. It protects me from things getting to me. It makes existence possible. And yet, it also makes me numb to my own existence.

Because I have these emergency measures to get out of difficult situations, I protect myself from falling into panic and fear and back-biting and neediness. All that is hidden beneath this protective shell. Other people don't see it, and I rarely see it myself. I might be able to go a number of months without remembering I'm just faking it.

It's like I was born a cripple and so I've learned how to use a wheelchair. I've gotten pretty good at it too. In fact, I've gotten so good that I no longer see the need for legs. And a new set of legs is offered to me every day.

"You can walk down this street. You can climb that mountain. You can run and skip and jump."

"I'm doing just fine, thank you." I say. "This is just my lot in life. Look at how fast I go! And besides, walking is impossible. My legs don't work."

It's not just me. Everyone has their own mode of operating. Some people decide that they're going to do things perfectly, so no one will have any dirt on them. Other people are always the givers, thus creating a white-washed facade around all their intentions. Still others alter themselves to be whatever anyone at any given moment might hope for them. Then there are those who desperately cling to authenticity. Some prepare for the worst so that they'll never be caught off guard, never be seen for who they really are. Some float through life, determined to be unaffected by its complexities or sorrows. Some turn right around and blame their ugliness on the person next to them. And finally some decide that if they do a disappearing act, no one can pin anything to them.

These are all different modes of operating. They are ways of keeping our beastly sides under wraps. But they are also what prevents us from seeing the actual state of the union.

Having children has made my default mode of operation very difficult. I found myself overwhelmed by situations with not enough time to analyze them. My resources came to an end every day, leaving me in a rage at my children or hurt at my husband or totally afraid to make decisions.

The children exposed the fact that I was hiding behind my own efforts at goodness. I was using my wheelchair to navigate the road, which was fine until the road got rocky. I needed a better way of operating. I needed to learn how to use my legs.

Using my legs is analogous to learning how to operate fully present in each moment, guided by God's wisdom, secure enough in His love to love others unconditionally, and confident in my decisions to act or wait peacefully. But how does anyone stop using their wheelchairs and stand on his or her own legs? I don't think we can. We have to use Jesus' legs. Okay, this makes for a very strange analogy, I admit.

The only way we can trust Christ to walk for us is to walk away from the wheelchair, that is, to deny old ways of doing things, the ways of coping that got us this far, but are now preventing us from going any further. Jesus says it this way, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23 ESV).

For me, that means noticing when I'm being compelled to withdraw and analyze. When I notice, then I can say, "God, I'm trying to use my wheelchair again! I'm believing that I have to deal with this situation on my own again. I don't have the brain power for this. But you do. Be my wisdom."

Then something phenomenal happens. It's like I'm lifted up. Movement is easy and smooth. I am relaxed and full of laughter and delight. I am walking, or rather, Christ is walking in me.


Patty said…
Great analogy! I'm wondering what is your Enneagram sound a little like Wayne (a 5) in your ability to step back and analyze! But not sure. Having young children is an especially difficult, but also rewarding time in our lives. Hard to navigate! But you are thinking it through! Thanks for sharing!
Yes, Patty. I'm a 5! You found me out. Thanks for reading. You are an encouragement to me.

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