I met with a couple of my friends last week.
Our usual over- coffee chitchat made a derisive turn toward the serious as we wandered into a discussion about feeling stuck in our place in life. With kids grown, we were fighting against a loss of focused purpose in our chosen activities and even deeper…out spiritual walk.
Now it was getting sticky.
Going deep always is.
I’ve been reading a book by Jennie Allen, called Stuck, that identifies possible reasons that we get stuck in our faith journeys. She lists some of those reasons as feeling mad, sad, overwhelmed, scared, discontent, or broken.
We confessed that each of us could identify with at least one of those areas…. if we were brutally honest…maybe more.
We agreed that the underlying root of being stuck in our spiritual walk is sin. Stuck in some sin. That’s an easy Sunday School answer.
What we weren’t counting on was what came next.
It started with a quote from Andrew Murray, a 19th century Scottish minister who defined humility as “fully occupied with God.” We asked each other…if the opposite of humility is pride, and given Murray’s definitions …could pride be defined as “fully preoccupied with self”?
Ouch. The room was getting warm (or was it just me?)
We then, cautiously, decided to confess to each other what we felt was the sin that was causing us to be stuck (currently). I need to tell you, this was not a group I could lie to. I had known each of these ladies for at least 25 years. We had history together. Pasts linked though faith and raising babies.
As we shared openly, painfully, we became acutely aware that the root of each of those sins was pride. Pride. Fully occupied with self. That sure seemed to fit.
Raw honesty causes goose bumps to rise and tears to flow.
We urged each other to start to think of ways to get “unstuck” and vowed to help in anyway we could to start that process. But, we all knew, this is self work. No one can do it for us.
Can someone hand me a mirror?
One of my recent responses to being stuck was to withdraw. I went into what I called “a cave”. Sin didn’t lead to being stuck. But being stuck was causing me to sin.
I spent several months at home, not engaging with my friends or my church. At first it was just self- preservation after a traumatic ordeal. I didn’t want to talk about what we had just been through- it was too painful. So I went into “hiding”. Thank God for online church!
One of the messages that I heard on podcast was from Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in NC. He spoke on the story of the prophet, Elijah, right after his encounter with the prophets of Baal.
(Side note: If you are unfamiliar with this story, check it out in 1 Kings chapter 18. It’s a “Hollywood- can’t –make- this- kind -of –stuff- up” story. Great drama, cool pyrotechnics!)
After Elijah’s triumph over the prophets of Baal (Ok, now I’ve let the cat out of the bag), Elijah was exhausted and on the run from Jezebel (you’ve heard of her, right?) he came to the place where he told the Lord, “I have had enough.” (1King 19:4)
Haven’t we all felt that in some way or another?
I have had enough.
At that point Elijah fell into a deep sleep. The Lord provided food and drink for him, then he got up and traveled 40 days and 40 nights to a cave.
There he promptly went into hiding. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long he stayed in the cave, but long enough for God Almighty to come looking for him. And when God came to Him, he asked Elijah what he was doing in the cave. Elijah told him that he was hiding from those trying to kill him. God told Elijah to come out of the cave, because He was about to pass by.
God wanted Elijah to see His glory so that Elijah could be reminded of the great God he was serving and encourage him to get back into the business that He had called him to do.
The point of Furtick’s message was this: we all will have a time when we need to go to a “cave”. It’s a place to rest and to restore. To heal and listen for the next step of life. To be invisible…..
But we weren’t made to live in a cave.
Real life doesn’t happen in a cave. A life full of purpose and passion doesn’t happen in a cave. God can reach us there….but we can’t reach others.
And on that afternoon, listening to that podcast, while I was cleaning my house-I came out of my cave.
And God passed by.
If you walk with God, you know what I mean. It means this: I knew that God was speaking to me through that podcast message, and I had the choice to stay where I was, or to pick myself up and choose to rejoin my life.
If you don’t have a faith journey…I urge you to consider one.
If you are a Christ follower and you feel stuck in the place where you can’t go forward, and don’t want to go back…hold your hand out.
He will pass by.