Do you ever feel stuck?
I used to live in the back country of Kentucky, surrounded on all sides by farmland, forest, and hunting trails as far as the eye could see. Before I acquired my drivers’ license, one of my favorite activities was to gas up my ATV and ride the trails in the woods across from my house. I had them mentally mapped to the point where I could get anywhere I wanted in our small town without driving on the highway once.
These trails weren’t gravel – some of them weren’t even full roads. These were deer runs, river beds, the edges of farmland, and grassy knolls that served to link together the various forests and fields where I made my home.
The payoff? An amazing (rumored) Indian burial mound the locals called “Tater Hill”. The local university’s archeology department had sent teams to excavate the hill over the years. They never really found anything, but (to me) it wasn’t the hill itself that lured me out. It was the amazing view from the top.
The trails, the hill, the rivers… It was a great place to get out and ride. Unless it rained.
If it rained, the landscape changed. The river-beds would fill with water and the deer runs would become sticky, muddy messes. I can remember many times riding the back-trails and having to turn around because of rushing water overtaking a creek bed. But nothing compared to getting stuck in the mud.
My little ATV just couldn’t handle the muddy patches caused by the rain. As long as I kept moving, things were fine, but the second I stopped I could feel my tires slipping further and further into the muck. Trying to move forward only caused my ATV to sink further and further in. And there I’d sit – stuck in the muck.
For a long time, and even still today, I get this twinge of “stuck-ness” when it comes to my ministry calling. I missed the opportunity to go to seminary, and it took me a long time to not regret the path that I’ve chosen. Instead of going into the ministry, I chose to make a career out of technology. Now, 10 years later, I get to turn that back around and use my knowledge and experience to teach ministries about technology.
The real turning point came a few weeks ago. I’ve mentioned it before, but a sermon by Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands really flipped my outlook on the whole thing. I’d been stressing out for so long that I was stuck – sitting here between the promise God had in store for me and this giant payoff waiting to happen. Turns out, I was missing the entire point all-together.
The process is the time we use to prepare between the promise and the payoff.
God’s working on me, and he’s using this time between “Here’s what I have planned” and “Let’s do it” – the times when I feel stuck – to prepare me. Mentally, physically, spiritually… think of what I would miss if I dove straight into things without being ready. In the bible, Jeremiah 29:11 gets thrown around a lot during graduation season, but let’s not gloss over just how powerful this verse is:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
The New Living Translation of Psalm 105:19 offers an even clearer picture:
Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.
Yes, there’s a payoff waiting. There’s a giant hill with a fantastic view. There’s the dream job with a dream church. But the time in-between – the times when we feel stuck – is used to develop us as a person and as a Christ follower.
So, we wait. But while we wait, God continues to work on us. He gives us bracers to push our wheels out of the mud. He gives us a winch to pull us when we need to get out of a deep trench. And he gives us friends to push and pull us when one person just can’t do it on their own.