Sometimes It’s OK to be Stuck

by Jan 14, 2017Deepen

Sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, we feel stuck. Could it be that it’s exactly the right place for us to be? I know, how could I say that? It’s not comfortable. It’s frustrating and disheartening. It messes with our emotions and desires and where we thought we were supposed to be. But then—and this is the why I believe it’s OK—through the murky, unsettling fog, we catch sight of a dancing glimmer of light. Something is stirring, deepening, transforming.

Being on a path when the fog settles in is a familiar place for me. Most of us know well that place where a way forward becomes unclear. At times, it lasts only moments or days; other times for months or years.

For me these stuck moments have not been confined to an age or stage in life. I felt it in my early twenties as a children’s ministry director when organizational shifts made me wonder where I might be in six months or a year. I felt it as a mom through the stages of my children’s lives when the delightful collided with the unpredictable. And then I felt it again while going after career goals, through life season shifts, or restarting after health issues forced me to stop pursuits of any kind.

And those are just a few instances that come to mind in this moment. I’m positive there are more.

Looking back do you see those moments when you have felt stuck? How are they similar to the one you might be experiencing right now? What do you long to change?

A few years ago, during one of these seasons of uncertainty, I became very aware of a deep restlessness. I was active enough, enjoying family, taking classes and doing my work, meeting with clients and writing, but it felt as if I was just staying busy. Describing it to a friend, I said it was like standing on a single path stone, and I couldn’t see the next step. Sometimes I fought it and sometimes I embraced it, but I stayed in this uncertain place for well over a year, maybe two or three.

A few key discoveries along the way (that I’m still learning!):

  • Things are not as stuck and still as we think. A lot is still going on that can be noticed, explored, and honored.
  • In the cramp-ness of standing still and being stuck, we can discover a spacious place where we are invited to breathe and rest. 
  • And, perhaps the opportunity before us for this moment is not one of moving forward in what we’re doing, but of growing deeper in who we are.

What do you most long for in your current season? What might be God’s invitations in the uniqueness of this particular time?

During my own season of standing still, I noticed that even my morning time with God was laced with restless thoughts and busyness. I didn’t know how to be quiet of soul, to listen and discover what my heart longed for, and even more what God might want me to notice about his heart for me in this season.

Slowly I began to learn that rest instead of restlessness was possible. My figurative cramped path stone became very spacious. I could lie down and breathe, pray, notice small glimpses of clarity through the fog. In the quiet of God’s presence, he was drawing me closer to himself and deeper in the ways I could know him but also to spacious places where I could hope and pray and dream. Eventually he would also lead me forward.

In those moments, it was as if his hands would come gently onto the sides of my face and settle my darting, restless glances all around. And then I would see only him. I discovered who he was as the one who creates the spacious places, calms the storms within, and takes us to deep, new places that are his to reveal and unfold.

My standing still, stuck place became a gift.

A Tool

I’d like to offer an “Instead Tool.” One place I’ve used this is in writing. It is my goal to keep deadlines, but I realized after one in particular that I felt dead-exhausted. My life coach at the time asked what I’d rather feel instead. I thought for a moment and began to describe running through a finish line with celebration and energy. Now I call a writing deadline a finish line.

Discovering a new, life-giving way for me to see my deadlines completely changed how I approached them. Now I intentionally shift into “finish line” mode. It helps me pray, strategize and plan with a different, more energetic mindset. It’s one use of an “instead.”

What “instead” might you create for your stuck moment?

Try this:

  • Write out a description (or the story) of your current stuck moment or season. Include what it is about, how you are stuck and how you feel about it.
  • Highlight the words that describe what drains your energy and keeps you stuck.
  • Ask yourself: How would I rather feel or think instead?
  • Then ask: How will I switch up my approach or mindset about this? What will I call it?
  • So now, what can be the phrase or image you will hold onto instead? (Like “finish line” instead of “deadline.”)

A transition, change, dilemma or stuck place can be a messy and scary place. To begin to believe it can instead become a growing place and a gift is a process. Allow the possibilities and “insteads” to grow in their time. Pray and listen for what God is inviting you to notice or step into. You might discover this is a time and opportunity for exploration and discovery of something new.

The roadblocks might begin to feel a bit more flexible, like soft clay that you and God together can work with and form. And you might find that your unanswered questions turn into teachers of wonder or deepening trust in all that God is unfolding beyond your sight or knowing.

In this way, sometimes it’s OK to be stuck. Be encouraged. You are moving forward in the depth of the transformation happening inside, if not yet in your outside circumstances.

As always, I’d love to hear your stories, your questions as well as your small steps of wonder and learning. We’re all on this journey together!


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