Comical and real.
You've got to hand it to the Allstate people. A corporate marketing genius envisioned the Mayhem character advertising their insurance products. Most of the ads depict Mayhem, portrayed by actor Dean Gerard Winters, engineering havoc in someone's life. Mayhem causes accidents, wrecks cars, makes various implements explode, and positions people in surprising, regrettable life circumstances. His antics tend to make us laugh. But, it is the comedy of reality, the chuckles of people who have been there, done that, and know the frustration and perhaps inevitability of life's unexpected turns. Underneath Mayhem's final knowing smile is the truth that life, in fact, throws us a few curves. Our grin is the comedy of reality.
The term "mayhem" has official definitions. In the legal world it is, "willful and permanent deprivation of a bodily member resulting in the impairment of a person's fighting ability" or "willful and permanent crippling, mutilation, or disfigurement of any part of the body". Definition 2 is more common to everyday life, "needless or willful damage or violence" (www.merriam-webster.com). In the advertisements and perhaps our own lives it is simply "violent or damaging disorder, chaos" (see www.lexico.com). And, those are words that ignite our fuses, control freaks to the max. There are no disorder or chaos slots in our day planners. Mayhem skillfully invades our programmed lives. You know, the uncertainties that disable our transmission systems. Go ahead! Snicker Mr. Mayhem! But, you're unwelcome here!
Still, Mr. Mayhem seems equipped with precision sensory antennae to know when to drop his surprises on us. How many life complications happen when our gears are moving us toward something planned and important? So, there's the flat tire on the way to a job interview. Or, the lost garment at the cleaning establishment we've been using for thirty-eleven years. Or, the rainstorm that drowns our son's graduation barbecue. Or, whatever isn't in the plan. Truth is, however, the timing thing may be more illusion than reality. Regardless of scheduling, mayhem, which is chaotic because it's not in the plan, always seems to occur when our systems are calibrated toward something with greater profile on our to-do list. That's what Mr. Mayhem's ironic snicker is all about anyway. "Gotcha" is the instant message.
We humans have limited vision. Even with all of our gadgets and devices we can't accurately predict what is going to happen. As a result, everything is unexpected, hour by hour, moment by moment. Still, we do impose patterns on the days of our lives (forgive the TV reference) and practice some programming of what's happening in the normal scheme of things. This schemata is eventually the rut that defines the going in and going out of life. Yes, the rut. We like it, and generally thrive in it. Until it is interrupted by Mr. Mayhem with his arrogant smirk. He reminds us that we don't know everything. Surprise!!! We may have had hints that he was coming---the dripping faucet, flickering light, or loose handle. But, our attention to the norms kept us form making allowances to accommodate his visit.
Good old practical James reminded the twelve scattered tribes that "...you do not know what tomorrow will bring" (James 4: 14, ESV). It's a spiritual reality common to the human species. That's why Mr.Mayhem reeks such havoc on us humans, and why his advertisements for Allstate humor us so. In one context life is basically surprising and unpredictable, the twists and turns that keep us guessing, flexible, and on guard. Who among us knows what tomorrow will bring?
Then there is Job. Surprises and unexpected truth challenged him at every turn. This good man seemingly lost everything. Mayhem complicated every vital statistic and component of his life. But, there was a revelation in his reflection about the hardships that wrecked everything valuable to him. He wrote---
After all, he's famous for great and unexpected acts; there's no end to his surprises.
He gives rain, for instance, across the wide earth, sends water to irrigate the fields.
He raises up the down-and-out, gives firm footing to those sinking in grief. He aborts the
schemes of conniving crooks, so that none of their plots come to term. He catches the
know-it-alls in their conspiracies - all that intricate intrigue swept out with the trash!
Job 5: 9-13, ESV
Job had learned the soothing and corrective work of God as he faced life's unexpected moments. He knew the truth that guided and sustained the Apostle Paul through so many mission surprises and moments of mayhem---
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those
who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8: 28, ESV
That's a big one for us. God is working in all things and is shaping everything for our good when we love him and seek his purpose in life. Even the unscheduled, unexpected surprises that interrupt our carefully prepared day planners and to-do lists.
Yes. Mr. Mayhem is comical. That's because mayhem is real. But, our God works in and through us, especially in those unexpected jolts that interrupt and complicate life.