Need a hug?

In my experience, every challenge or crisis has two distinct phases or components, the active and the passive.

The "active phase" is like being on the athletic field. Your mind is engaged more than your emotions. You are in a mode of constant assessment, creativity and the application of skill and insight. This phase offers a sense of control, clear thinking and often an unusual ability to be at your best. It's as if your mind, your spirit, your body and your emotions are all in high gear, providing you with all the resources needed to be at your best in those moments.

The "passive phase" is when you move to a state of reflection. This does not necessarily mean a drop in intensity. It is; however, a shift of focus. This is when your emotions usually hit and therefore need to be felt and expressed. We need to digest and absorb all that has happened in the previous "active phase." This is why you often see people emotionally crash the moment after a crisis has reached a point of stability. Our mind, spirit, body and emotions can only take so much and need a release. We can be extremely controlled and clear-headed in the moments of trauma as a survival mechanism, but when the dust settles, we can slip into the fog of emotions and feelings of confusion or even depression.

We see this two-phase shift with the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18. The prophet faces a group of hostile prophets of the pagan god, Baal. Elijah issued a contest of sorts between Elijah's God, the God of Israel, and the pagan god, Baal. You really need to read the story, but the result was a landslide victory for the God of Israel, making Elijah the victor and he ordered that the pagan prophets be killed. It was a no-contest victory. However, if you turn the page to 1 Kings 19 the same guy, Elijah, who displayed great courage and confidence against the prophets of Baal, crumbles at the threat of the pagan queen, Jezebel. What happened to his strength? Elijah needed some recovery time after the "active phase" of his run-in with the prophets of Baal. In one moment he was active, right alongside God to claim victory over the enemies of God. In the next moment, he was weak, emotional and discouraged. This is the Bible showing us the human condition. We do not have unlimited capacity. We cannot "handle" it all. Sometimes we are alongside God as mighty warriors, and other times we are alongside God as needy and confused children. We all face the same dynamics of this shift. Don't be surprised to see people you perceive as strong, spiritually mature and "together" have Elijah moments of confusion and need. Praise God for His church that we might love one another through these shifts.

Practically speaking, I've learned what I need from those around me as I move in and out of these phases of crisis or challenge. During "active phase" I don't want sympathy, comfort or caring gestures. I want to be an active part of the solution. When I'm in the active phase I ONLY want people around me who are creative, energetic, skillful and wise to bring effective solutions to the table. Can you imagine if Elijah's buddy interrupted the events of 1 Kings 18 to offer Elijah a heartfelt hug? No, Elijah had entered the challenge. His mind and heart were attuned to God and actively engaged in achieving success over the prophets of Baal.

When our son, Cooper, was in the hospital we were in the midst of dealing with some unexpected complications to his surgery. Somehow the hospital chaplain appeared in the room and decided to offer some consoling words while we were in the "active phase." Bad timing. In an effort not to be rude we nodded and thanked her, but in our minds all we could think of was "LEAVE!"  No, I didn't want a hug. No, I didn't need to talk. No, I didn't want to step out for some fresh air. I needed to be in that room, at my best for my son. I had entered the challenge! A few hours later I melted down. I cried. I expressed my fears and received the comfort of family and friends. I moved from one phase to the other.

In the passive phase, I want and appreciate comfort and sympathy. I need the moments of reflection and prayer. I need to express my sense of need and confusion and fear. We should all be aware that we experience both phases. No one is strong enough or invincible to the emotional swings of the passive phase. We all need God and His people to hold us up when we feel we can't go on. Often, caring people miss the mark because they think people in crisis need only one thing...sympathy. So, with all due respect to the caregivers...don't interrupt the "active phase" of a crisis or challenge. Likewise, in the "passive phase," with all due respect to my ego, sometimes I need a hug.

Feel free to share your prayers, encouragements and comments to this post.

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Posted by Andy Savage at 7:15 AM
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