Break On Through (To the Other Side)
Have you ever been stuck? I don't mean like just stuck in traffic. I mean spiritually, emotionally, existentially frozen in place (which, now that I think about it, there are actually times that feeling has coincided with being stuck in traffic). It is The Worst. In fact, it completely rejiggers your conception of what The Worst is. The problem is not so much in the situation. On paper this listlessness is not as bad as having your arm cut off in a freak chainsaw accident. Yet that internal recognition that something is off and things won't click into place no matter how hard you try; that feeling is pretty awful.
My life of late has been this perfect storm of existential stuckness. A Nor'easter of Writer's Block has collided with a Hurricane of Spiritual Exhaustion all while the clock ticks away on the summer. And in the middle is me: holding on for dear life as everything I try seems to be met with the swelling of the sea. Each time I think the storm is dying down, the rain begins to pound harder. I try to talk to God and it feels like it bounces off the walls. I try to write and the words sound like they'd get laughed out of a kindergarten class. When nothing works there is this flooding temptation to do nothing. Why bother?
I think part of the problems with spiritual listlessness is that we are impatient people. Hold on. I'm deflecting a bit when I generalize. I am an impatient person. You see following God or creativity or anything about which I am passionate can seem like magic sometimes. It's full of beauty and mystery and it comes rushing in like a crazy wind. So I try to conjure the magic, but it doesn't really work that way. I get impatient. I get frustrated. I wonder if the magic was just in my imagination. I get lost in my own head and that's when the cold waves crash over me.
To completely change analogies midway, I've been looking at this brick wall graphic at the top of this post and it reminds me of The Shawshank Redemption. It reminds me of Andy Dufresne, wrongly imprisoned, looking at the wall in his cell. A seemingly impassible barrier that stood between where he was and where he knew he was supposed to be. He had to be free and that is what he set out to do.
Most prison break movies are full of action. The audience is on the crazy plan from the beginning. There are often fights, explosions, and people busting through the prison walls. "We're busting out of here tonight!" In Shawshank, you didn't know Andy was busting out until after the fact. He went about his escape slowly and quietly. It required an ungodly amount of patience. Rather, it was probably a Godly amount of patience. He tunneled through a wall over years and years with an old rock hammer he obtained from his friend Red (played by the golden-voiced Morgan Freeman).
I remember thinking it would take a man six hundred years to tunnel through the wall with it [the rock hammer]. Old Andy did it in less than twenty....Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes, really. Pressure. And time.
I'm impatient many times. I want God to blow a hole in the wall that's holding me back from where I'm supposed to be. And sometimes God does that. But I think that more often, we are supposed to slowly dig our way out. Pressure and time. If we humbly work at following God. If we chip away at the writer's blocks or whatever it is that stands in our way, we'll find ourselves more free and more mature.
In Romans 5, Paul talks about boasting in our sufferings, which is one of those statements that has always made me feel like Paul would be kind of an annoying guy to hang around. But then he gets into this idea that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and because God's love has washed over us that hope will not disappoint. And I can just see Paul chipping away at his wall day after day, year after year like Andy Dufresne until he broke through to the other side.
My feeling of being stuck is nothing compared to the suffering that produced Paul's endurance, but I draw hope from his words and example. He writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16: "So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day." Pressure and time can transform us.
I hate being stuck. It is maybe not The Worst, but it feels like it in the moment. Yet all I can do is put my head down and be faithful the best that I can. And may God's grace help me find my way home.