While the snow came down last week, or at least what we call snow down here, my wife and I had to brave the Would-Be Blizzard. Not because we needed milk or eggs. No, we had to brave it because I had locked my keys in my office and the only person with a spare key lived about 15 minutes down the road.
We had to do it because next to my keys, which had the power to gain me access to my office and my car and my house, was something even more important – my computer. The keys I could make it without, but with two sermons to write and loads of other typing to do, doing without my computer was another story. Without it, I was stuck.
The longer I waited to get to work, the more frustrated I became, the angrier I got, and the more I just wanted to scream or even give up.
I imagine you have been there, because these emotions aren’t limited to those of us who can sometimes be described as clumsy and forgetful. I experience them in my life and in the lives of the people I share life with at my church almost every day.
That’s because when it comes to faith and their relationship with God, a lot of people know what it is like to feel stuck. What most of us want, even if we have a hard time expressing it, is to experience a closer and better relationship with God and see tangible progress in our spiritual lives. It takes a lot of effort to get ourselves to church and to find time to read and study and pray and do all the stuff we know we are supposed to do, and so when we do them and have a hard time seeing progress it can be easy to feel stuck.
We all long for a deeper and more intimate connection with God that will lead us to see real change in our minds and our hearts and the way we live our lives. It doesn’t matter if you go to church every Sunday, describe yourself as Spiritual Not Religious or aren’t even sure where you stand, because the longing to grow towards something greater and experience real change is universal. And yet, regardless of our religious commitments, we all know what it is like to feel like we are stuck as we struggle through the same old habits and patterns that we had hoped were temporary but feel very much permanent.
As U2 once sang, sometimes you can’t make it on your own. The good news is that you don’t have to. The hope and beauty that comes from believing and trusting in God is that growing in faith isn’t something we have to do on our own. What we learn from Scripture and the lives of our friends is that spiritual growth is a gift from God. This is one of the gifts of living life in God’s Covenant.
Experiencing a deeper relationship with God and becoming more faithful doesn’t happen by superhuman effort, but because God loves us so much that God helps us do it and only asks us to participate in the process. We talk a lot, and rightly so, about how God is with us, but God is also ahead of us, pushing and pulling us towards himself and a more true and faithful life.
A friend of mine has been reminding me lately about what Luke wrote about Jesus. In chapter 2 we read that as Jesus grew up, he “grew in wisdom and years, and in divine and human favor”. Unsurprisingly, the life of Jesus serve as a model for our own spiritual growth. We aren’t born as finished products, but with God’s help we can grow and become the person that God wants us to be.
What frustrates a lot of us, I think, is that growth isn’t linear. You can’t plot it on a chart and you can’t boil it down to math and formulas. I wish we could. Growth often happens in fits and starts and we usually experience the greatest breakthroughs when we least expect it.
But whatever it is that has you feeling stuck, take a breath. You don’t have to do it on your own. Even if you can’t see it or feel it, God is with you but also ahead of you, pulling you forward – especially when you can’t see how.
So, despite it all there is good news. Relax, you aren’t stuck.