In A Rut
Last Sunday afternoon, our small group went on a prayer retreat. It was chilly for this time of year in Maryland and I was recovering from bronchitis, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to spend time in prayer with this amazing group of people. We started out by praying together, then we were left on our own to pray by ourselves for an hour. I found myself sitting outside in a rocking chair with a brand new journal my daughter had given me for my birthday. As a journaler (Yes! I made this word up) I happily opened it up and could smell the newness of the book. I had my favorite pen, which glides over paper like butter, and I was ready to journal. Trust me, every writer has their favorite pen! I started writing and giving praise to God and then something changed. The next thing I knew I was searching in the deepest crevices of my heart and what I found was ugly. My thoughts, my attitude and my heart.
There were things I had been carrying around inside this heart for a while. Things which made me angry, anxious, and frustrated. I have taken these things to the Lord in prayer, but what I realized was I had not set them down permanently. I kept going back and picking them up. Every time I picked them I was adding them to the load I was carrying, and the load just got heavier and heavier until I came crashing down. Suddenly I was spewing words out of my head so fast that my hand could not keep up in writing them down. It was like vomiting on paper. All the ugliness and frustration I had been carrying in my heart was down in black and white and the reality of where my heart was became evident.
My words were brutal. They weren’t about anyone, but about situations which I don’t have control over. There was my answer…situations I don’t have control over. As I sat there reading my words, I realized these were situations God never asked me to take over. Yet, somehow I had taken on a role that wasn’t even mine. I can’t control other people’s choices or their words. I can only control my own. My problem is that I was born a “fixer” by default. Growing up in a dysfunctional family will do this to you. I hate conflict – it is draining and sucks the life out of me. My nature is to try and keep the peace at all costs so everyone is happy or at least not fighting. I realized I had fallen back into the habit of trying to please everyone while making myself miserable.
I had to ask myself, what were you thinking? Has this ever worked for you before? No! How is it working for you now? It isn’t. Yet, what I thought was rational didn’t even come close. I had allowed myself to get stuck in a rut. A rut is formed when the same path is taken over and over again. The more times the same path is taken, however, the deeper the rut becomes. This is exactly what I had done to myself. I was stuck in a rut! Can anybody relate? Have you ever been stuck in a rut where you know what the solution is, but still can’t seem to get yourself out of it?
It is freeing to be able to recognize the problem, and even more freeing to know the solution. PRAYER! Simple, truthful words to a Father who wants to hear them and respond. In the clutter and noise of this world we can let the one voice we need to hear blend in with all the other voices. How did this happen? It happened because I allowed my margins to become so narrow I had no time for my “quiet” time. I was too busy thinking about how I could solve these problems. I was trying to anticipate my next course of action, rather than leaving them where my problems belonged…at the foot of the cross.
God always wants us to be honest with Him. The words I wrote were real, gut-wrenching thoughts. I was upset by these situations, but it didn’t make God love me any less. It allowed me to see what the root of my problem was, address it and gain the ability to move forward. I’m not perfect and I admit I can be pretty stubborn at times, but I am thankful for God’s love, mercy and grace which covers my multitude of sins.
This can happen to anyone. Prayer is the foundation of who I am, but all it takes is getting in a rut to tip me over because the rut determines where I have to be. God never wants us to stay in a rut that will bring us to a place of deep frustration and resentment. A rut is just a grave with both ends open, and we have to choose to get out. The good news is we have options. God wants us to trust Him with all of our heart and allow us to be free from carrying our burdens by ourselves.
When I am tired and overwhelmed I do not live my best for God. It is when I seek my place of respite with God that I find strength and the ability to deal with the issues at hand. I’m not Superwoman, but I have the Holy Spirit within me who is my guide to give me wisdom, power and strength to face each day and protect me from a world that is trying to suck me into thinking I’m in this all alone.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
I’m thankful for the lessons God teaches me with His great love and for the freedom there is in knowing He desires authentic relationship with me even on a bad day.