The Pendulum Swings

Confession time! I do this much more than I would like. I over-react to little things because in some way they hit too close to home. A trigger is pulled, a button is pushed, and boom! Then instead of reflecting, analyzing, and appropriately correcting my reaction, I try to avoid that stimulus at all cost.

That. Is. Not. Healthy.

It may be normal, but I’m not called to be “normal.” I’m called to rise above the storms. I’m designed to soar like an eagle far above the clouds where the winds no longer buffet my wings.

My tendency to swing between over-reaction and avoidance reminds me of physics class. (For those of you starting to glaze over from science-class inflicted boredom, I promise it is relevant. Bear with me a moment.)

Have you ever watched a pendulum? Maybe you are like me and spontaneously recite Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion… “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Just me? Probably… but the axiom holds true.

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When a pendulum is pulled back and released, the bob swings equally far in the opposite direction. In a system without resistance, this will continue indefinitely… a constant back and forth, never slowing or changing. That’s inertia – an object in motion will stay in motion. However, because of forces like friction or air resistance, the bob will return to a position just shy of start and then continue swinging in the opposite direction. Eventually, the bob will return to center, but how long this takes depends upon the angle at which it was released, the length of the bob, and how much resistance is present.

Now, what on earth does this have to do with over-reaction? Everything.

When we over-react to something, most likely it is not truly an “over”-reaction but rather a misplaced reaction. You see, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, including our emotions. Fear, excitement, joy, pain, anger… these emotions are all responses to something occurring in our world. Emotions are a natural response to a stimulus. Healthy, appropriate responses are neither suppressed nor exaggerated, but rather mirror the magnitude of the occasion. However, if an unhealthy or inappropriate response occurs, it does not mean that our emotions are “broken,” but rather that there is an area in our lives that is not in balance. The stimulus which prompted the seemingly exaggerated response is merely a shadow of some other trigger that is buried within mind and heart.

The pendulum was already in motion before the offending stimulus occurred, and its motion never stopped. Maybe the pendulum’s drop angle was very sharp, an intense trauma producing jarring effects. Maybe the bob was really long so the pattern has been in motion for a very long time, maybe even as long as can be remembered. Maybe there hasn’t been enough resistance to bring the bob back to stillness, so it continues to move uninhibited. Whatever the reason, the pendulum is still swinging.

If you’re like me, it might be because you have avoided the stimulus that prompted the chaos. Or maybe you need more time, more space, more healing, more chocolate. Whatever reason you ascribe to the behavioral pattern continuing, know that it CAN be stopped.

The pendulum will keep swinging, side to side, until some force halts it. You may feel powerless to stop it, but this is a lie. Peace can be brought to the swinging chaos.

Reach out to the One who is Peace, to Jesus. Ask Him to show you where the true stimulus lies within your past that started the wild swinging of emotional reaction. He is faithful and kind. His Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth and heal the inner wounds. Regardless of the intensity of the pain or wounding, He knows exactly what happened and He sees it from a different perspective. He designed you; He can navigate you back to truth.

He can guide you through the maelstrom to the eye of the hurricane where there is peace. He can cause the winds and waves to dissipate around you.

He is the One who calms the storms with a word. He can whisper “Peace. Be still.” to oceans, pendulums, and even your raging emotions. He can mend your heart in places you didn’t even realize were broken, but there is a cost.

No more avoidance.

You must be still in His Presence.

You must spend time with Him without shrinking back in shame.

Be like David and cry out to Him, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Allow Him to transform every one of the scars into marks of beauty and badges of honor.

As He works within you, He will bring peace to your pendulum. You are His masterpiece and He is faithful to finish every good work which He starts. Let Him provide the restraint you need to change the motion and bring you back to center with Him.

Because when you are centered with Him, there is no cause for over-reaction. There are appropriate responses in perfect sync with His heart of mercy, love, and grace.

So go ahead, start slowing that pendulum down by being still with Him. Allow Him to provide the resistance to bring you back to rest. He’ll finish the work He starts.

Pursuing Peace with Other Humans

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy…” Hebrews 12:14

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Confrontation has never been easy for me. I tend to prefer to keep the status quo and forgive the wrong without addressing the underlying issue. This solution has the appearance of peace but none of the lasting effects. While my flesh prefers to yield to my “flight response” and ignore the “fight” instinct that rises up, there are times when I know I must make a stand. As a yielded vessel of the Holy Spirit, I must listen to His promptings to know when to act and how.1 Being Spirit-led like that has not been easy for me to cultivate and I definitely don’t always get it right, but I continue to grow.2 I know His grace is sufficient.

A friend texted me recently and wrote some things that hurt and stirred up confusion. Her words attacked what God has called me to do in this season. The offensive onslaught hit like a battering ram against the faith shielding me.4 Flaming arrows sought weak spots within my armor; tender spots where remnants of old wounds threatened to reopen. She wasn’t the enemy.5 No, she was being used as a pawn in a much larger battle. The stakes were high… my faith, my identity, my purpose, my calling, my anointing. A smoldering heap of rubble was all the enemy wanted to remain.

My first instinct was to break contact with this friend, to write the relationship off as toxic. I would lick my wounds, forgive her, and move on with my life. In the past, that has been my go-to response. Unfortunately, this pattern has also made it hard for me to stay in relationship with people, so I would not advise adopting my former methods.

Let’s pause for just a sec. Can I get an “Amen” that friendships can be hard? Like really hard! Sometimes a monk’s life of solitude seems preferable to the effort and work required to cultivate a healthy relationship with another human. But anyway, I digress.

This time, the Lord would not allow me to wallow in that old pattern. He gently reminded me that the issue needed to be addressed, not only for my sake but also for hers. I was a little stubborn, so He unfortunately had to tell me more than once. I long for the day when I hear His voice and immediately obey.6 No delay, only simple childlike faith coupled with radical obedience, this is my highest goal. 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I sat down at my computer, a conundrum of racing heart and quiet spirit. I told the fear and anxiety to hush and began to type. I allowed His Spirit to guide me and speak through the words clickety-clacking onto my screen. As I typed, the Comforter reaffirmed my identity. He spoke life-giving words into my purpose and calling. The unbelief was crushed and gave way to simple faith as I allowed His voice to become louder than the enemy’s lies and twisted truths that had pierced my mind. 

The enemy always overplays his hand. When the lies came that stirred up anxiety and confusion, I recognized that they were not life-giving words from my Creator. I discerned the spiritual battle that was being fought and pressed in to hearing God. I sought Him in the secret place.7 Like Psalm 46:10 suggests, I became still and knew He was God.8 And then I also knew what was attacked revealed exactly what the enemy wanted me to avoid. Much like it is easier to see the flame of a candle when the darkness surrounds it, the attack of the enemy actually illuminated the route I was to take.

It’s also important to note that I chose to not take offense against my friend.9 Holding onto offense is extremely dangerous and a trap straight from the pit of hell. Taking offense gives the enemy access to our hearts and minds. Offense creates a wound that if ignored will fester and become putrid. Nursing the offense leads to bitterness, unforgiveness, and all sorts of unpleasant effects. (If you desire to live a life free from offense, I highly recommend Bait of Satan by John Bevere.) 

And do you know what happened? Those words spoken deep into my soul by the Holy Spirit did not bring shame or condemnation to my friend.10 The words that I was led to send her opened her eyes to where she had been deceived but in a way where she felt affirmed, loved, forgiven, and accepted.11 If I had done things my way and retreated from relationship, there would have been no healing, no recalibration, no reconciliation. 

My way stinks. His way is beautiful. 

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10

My human perception of peace can get twisted to mean no conflict under any circumstances. I have to remember that there is often turbulence before you break through the storms and fly above the clouds. Sometimes confrontation has to happen in order for there to be lasting peace with another person. Relationships are hard, but healthy relationships are worth pursuing. 

Peace with another human requires forgiveness, honest communication, and two people willing to listen with humility. If reconciliation is not possible, trust God that it may simply be a timing issue. Follow His peace; if you do not have peace about reaching out to the other person, the lack of peace may be a warning that an attempt to reconnect is not the right step to take at that time. Pray for the other person to be blessed and for the Holy Spirit to reveal the method and timing in which He wishes to restore the relationship. He will lead you into all truth if you will yield your will to His.12

May God bless you with the wisdom and courage to pursue peace in all your relationships. 

  1. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
  2. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Romans 8:14
  3. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:16
  5. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
  6. He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28
  7. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6
  8. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
  9. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
  10. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
  11. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
  12. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13

(Note: All Scriptures in this post were taken from the NIV.)