Stuck and Still

As wonderful as the Christmas season is and as much as I love it, I’ve been pretty jammed up lately.

I’ve wanted to pull the covers over my head and close my eyes tight…as if doing that could keep it all out.  As if being frozen…stuck in one place will help.  And, it is pretty much over run of the mill adult stuff.  Managing details.

Then that sleepy-eyed little boy comes up next to me. “Nose!” He giggles as he pokes my face.  “Mama, I wan’ somethin’ to drink.”  I give the sweetest boy in the whole entire world a hug, pulling him up into our covers, and feel a surge of mommy love hormones that washes away my concerns.

“Mama, I wan’ somethin’ to drink!”

So, I get up and move.

I get my boy somethin’ to drink.

I’ll continue to struggle with that desire to freeze, to hole up, to close my fists and eyes tight throughout the day.  It can feel pretty intense sometimes.

Then I feel a nudge to get outside…to walk.

So, I get up and move.

I walk and walk.  And feel the December sunshine soak into my bones and wash away the anxieties of life.

Get up and move.

In Psalms we are told to “be still and know that He is God.”  I like another translation better: “cease striving and know that I am God.”

But…and this is a very big but…there is a difference between being still…

…and being stuck.

I went to a Christian university where a common joke was that people would blame God for break ups: “I’ve prayed about it and I feel like the Lord is telling me that we just aren’t meant to be together.  It isn’t His will.”  Or, sometimes God was used as the basis for other decisions (or lack there of): “I haven’t chosen a major yet because I am waiting on God to tell me what His will is” (from a junior…or maybe a fifth year senior).  You can see it after college, too. “I haven’t applied for a job because I am waiting for God to tell me what to do.”

Sometimes this idea of waiting on God, this idea being “still” is really misunderstood and misapplied as being “stuck”…paralysis of analysis.

Sometimes God just wants us to move.

Have you ever studied the phrase “will of God” in the New Testament?  (You can read more about this topic here.)  Do you know what God seems to specify in regards to His will?  Research it for yourself, but you might be surprised by what you find and what you do not find.  You will read that it is God’s will for us to love one another, for us to pursue peace, and for us to love God with all of our heart.  Do you read anywhere about us God’s will and which job you should take, who you should marry, or where you should live?  No.

Too often it seems that the people who are so fixated, so paralyzed, so stuck by trying to determine God’s will in these areas have the most difficult time with things like peace. Love. Not being easily angered…the specifics of God’s will that you CAN find in the New Testament.

God seems to be pretty direct about things like being patient.  Being kind.  Giving grace to others.

He is not always so direct about everything else.

Sometimes I wonder if we focused more on these specific directives of God rather than waiting for Him to boom a voice down about these other “bigger” things (really, now?  Bigger than grace? Than peace?) where we would be as a faith group.

Now, I am not down playing the still, small voice that God chose to use when speaking to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13), the voice I think He does still use with us.  I also think our spirituality can often lead us to being stuck…rather than being still…and focused on the wrong things.

We think we are waiting on God, when actually God is waiting on us.

To get unstuck.  To be still.  In our heart and mind.  Which enables us…

To get up and move.

A person who is stuck often feels powerless…a recipe for depression and anxiety.  That description doesn’t sound like the stillness mentioned in Psalm 46:10.

I think we can be moving and have a stillness in our hearts.

I think we can be stuck and our mind be so frantic we are paralyzed.

I think it is difficult…impossible even for God to steer a vehicle standing still.

The movement, the taking the steps themselves reveal a faith in God that says: “I believe You will be at the next place my foot hits.  I don’t have to hole up, close my eyes tight, pull the covers over my head. I can move.  I believe You will be with me every step of the way.  And, if I make a wrong step?  Well, You will help me know it, correct it, and keep going.”

He is waiting for us to move.  To take a step.  Any step.  To trust Him like when a one year old reaches out and trusts his mother or father when he or she takes that first step.  The child doesn’t really know what is coming.  He or she doesn’t have to figure it all out.  The child just walks, often focused on the face of the child’s mother or father.

A lot of my clinical work is with clients who are depressed or struggle with anxiety.  Outside the realm of “depth work”, I think it is important to attend to the basics.  “Get out of your house and out of your head” I will hear myself say to them.  It is something I tell myself, too.  Research shows that rumination, or over thinking, is connected to depression.

And, we love to ruminate…to think…to hole up in our homes and to think and think…we ponder and we believe that if we dwell on something long enough we will figure it out.

It just doesn’t work that way. The result of rumination is being stuck.  Feeling overwhelmed.  Powerless.

Not still.  Not at peace.  Not moving forward.  Stuck.

In fact, in the ruminating, in the overthinking, in the dwelling…in the being stuck…we can hardly HEAR God’s still small voice…our head is so full of other VERY LOUD voices…our own and others.

And, if you think about it, rumination, this overthinking, this idea that if we dwell on something long enough we will figure it out is fairly presumptive…it presumes that we believe we CAN figure it out.  It reveals a sense of power we think we have.

Taking a step…a leap of faith communicates something else.  It says: “I don’t have everything figured out.  I know I never will.  I am just going for it.  I am living life trusting that it is in the hands of Someone who does have it all figured out.”

For whatever reason too many of us were taught indirectly (or directly) that we CAN figure it out…that we are that powerful.  Perhaps in your childhood magical thinking you learned through your parent’s divorce or their alcoholism or their workaholism or their terminal illness that you had that power…you had the power to make your parents happy, sad, or angry.  You SEEMED to have the power to make things ok.  You grew up too fast.  You became a little adult tending to yours and perhaps your siblings needs because the adults were busy taking care of their overwhelming issues.  You gladly took on that power and it felt good and so big as a child, but it was too much too soon. It was adult responsibility and roles without the adult wisdom and flexibility.

And, now you tend to get stuck thinking that you can still think things through…that you can still make things ok…that you are “still” powerful.  And, when life gets complicated and your own powerfulness doesn’t work you don’t have any other ways of coping because you didn’t learn about healthy self care, healthy moderation…how to get out of your house and our of your head… when you were younger.  Your way of coping was to control…through whatever means you learned.  You didn’t learn that you aren’t in control.  You didn’t learn that you aren’t all powerful.

So, in this new, real adult world that requires flexibility, that requires movement, that requires more trust and less control, you freeze up, you hole up, you close up your fists and eyes tight against a world that does not sway to your rigid demands for perfection or thoughts on how things should be done.

You get stuck.  And, that is exactly what the Enemy wants.  He wants nothing more for you to do than to get stuck.  To stop moving.  To be a vehicle God cannot steer.

New moms are prone to this “stuck-ness”, too.  Research shows that mothers of young children have a greater tendency to struggle with depression.  And, that really makes sense.  Working and stay at home moms alike tend to be isolated.  They are swamped with the needs of their children and while this is a magical time, the hours spent at home can weigh on any new mom combined with the pressures our society puts on women to handle it all on their own.  I applaud all ministries and endeavors that reach out to this population of women.  They often need HELP to get “out of their house and out of their head”.

So, on this New Year’s I am reminding myself…get out of your house and out of your head.  Move.  There is something powerful about engaging your body that disengages…in a good way…your mind.  It gives it a break.  So, move!  Yes, your actual body!  Move it!  Take action.  Give God something to steer.  Resist the urge to pull the covers over your head and hide, to freeze, to withdraw.  We all don’t have a cute little two year old to get us out of bed, but we can use an alarm clock…or our dreams and our hopes.

Dream.  Hope.  Dare.  Take risks.  Taking time to dream, to unleash your imagination about the future is a wonderful way to get “unstuck”.  It also reveals a wonderful and delightful trust in God.  It says: “I believe it when You say that You have plans and hope for my future” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).  It is a recovering of a childhood you may have lost when you took on those adult roles a little too early…whether you were seven or seventeen.

Dreaming is quite different than ruminating.  Dreaming is the movement of the mind.  It is the antithesis to “stuck-ness”.  God so often works in the midst of our dreaming.  Often it is in our dreaming that we rediscover who we are…who God is calling us to be.  Dreaming takes the earthly boundaries away and opens us up for God’s possibilities.

This isn’t a call to workaholism…to moving so much, so fast the roar of our motion inhibits our stillness, our hearing of God.  It is a call to balance…to taking a step…one at a time…to being still in our hearts, minds tuned in to Him…and not stuck…minds tuned it to ourselves and others.

Move.  Dream. Dare.  Take risks.  Be still.  But, don’t be stuck.  And, if you get stuck again…like I do sometimes…remember to start over.

Move.  Dream. Be Still.  Know (that He is God).  Trust (in the Lord).

Be that moving vehicle He can steer.

And, while you are at it, if you see someone else who is stuck take a minute to help them get out of their house and out of their head.  Take some time to dream and to hope with them.  Take a few moments to be still with them.  Dream about what they might dare or the risks they could take to be who God is calling them to be.

We CAN help one another be still…and not stuck.