Awakening

“I want to wake up kicking and screaming.
I want to live like I know what I’m leaving.
I want to know that my heart is still beating.”
~Switchfoot

I get so lost in the haze these days. Granted, I probably remember the past as being more simple than it truly was, but still… I’m looking for answers in what feels like a half-asleep daze, yet I dislike both those who claim to have simple, pat solutions and those who say “Your choice…I don’t want to sway you.” Why don’t we all come with instruction manuals?

I complain too much. I’ve got it good compared to many, both in mental and physical ways; to grumble about feelings of stagnation and apathy really doesn’t do anyone any good, but then what does? Someone told me “You did come with an instruction mainual– God’s Word.” It isn’t that simple. I don’t like change, but neither do I like rutstuckedness. I think I would take change over these feelings. Maybe I’ll meet God at camp and He will tell me what to do, but I have my doubts.

Doubts…I think I have all of the disciples’ weaknesses: doubting Thomas, impulsive Peter, wanting God to do what I expect is his plan and remove my troubles (for him the Romans) Judas. So many weaknesses and so few strengths. I wish I got directions in visions like Paul. “Go here. Do this.” But I guess we all have different versions of the thorn in the flesh to remind us of our humanness. That’s something I hope never to forget– my unworthiness and God’s grace. Our camp theme is going to be “It’s Not About Me”, something this grumbler could use to be reminded of. It’s about Him and His glory and His plan, even when I see no semblance of an organized plan in my life.

I need to get out of this fog. I want to wake up, know what I’m leaving, feel my heart beating, and really live, whether that means leaving the humdrum and mundane behind or learning to live voraciously in the midst of routine I do not know. I rather hope it is the former. Care to share any ideas of what has helped you to break out of spiritual ruts? I would love the help of The Body. Tell me, how do you keep from losing heart? How do you stay spiritually awake?

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Categories: My Life, Ponderings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Awakening

  1. Tough questions you end with there.

    First, I really sympathize with how you feel. And, looking at myself, I see I have no answers. I have no pat answers for breaking out of ruts and avoiding the trap of losing heart and spiritual fervor. So I don’t want anything I say to seem like a neat little answer or fix. Maybe someone else will have more of the answers, but for me this is my feeble contribution.

    Though I don’t have the answers, it is good to ponder the issue. So I will share some of my experience, my thoughts, my floundering to this point. Maybe that will help you think too.

    I think often the coming out of apathy (and hopelessness) is gradual so that when looking back one can’t pin-point a particular moment, or act, which was the “ta-da!” moment. And that is because life isn’t a nice little booklet–it is nuance, metaphor, poetry. The exact confluence of things that brought you out before is subtle behind full sorting out, and won’t be exactly the same the next time, or ever again.

    Also, it is important to recognize that not all dissatisfaction is the same. I am reminded of the distinction Paul makes “Godly sorrow leads to repentance, worldly sorrow leads to death.” So I think there can be godly dissatisfaction and worldly dissatisfaction. We can understand what we are manifesting by the type of fruit produced. If our dissatisfaction leads us to mope around the house and whine (or that sort of thing), it is producing death. But if our dissatisfaction leads us to seek God more then it is producing life. (We can have both at the same time, which makes things difficult.)

    So I think the answer to how do we “break out of ruts” and not “lose heart” comes back to the question of, “How do we seek God?” For if our dissatisfaction drives us to seek God, then ultimately we will be satisfied because he who asks receives, and he who seeks and knocks to him the door will be opened. The “how to seek God” is a big question (obviously) but I think that articulation helps to rightly re-frame the question as one about a relationship with a person (God) and not just about doing things to fix some abstract problem. If we are whole heartedly seeking God, then we are most certainly not in a rut–even if we can’t presently see what wild path God is leadings us on as we chase after him.

    To make it personal, in my own worldly (bad) dissatisfaction, ruts, and hopelessness I find in my heart that I want to understand the path I am walking, and to see clearly the conclusion of the situation, or life in general. By this I mean that when I take a hard look at myself, what I feel in my worldly dissatisfaction, ruts, and hopelessness is a lack of trusting God. (One can see the same in Israel during its time in the wilderness when they grumbled against God.) In those times I don’t want to trust God for who He is, I want to understand what is happening. And, in not having that understanding those negative feelings well up inside. When we feel this worldly dissatisfaction what we are feeling is the desire to know the path so that we can go forward without leaning totally on God. What we want is a clear piece of direction so I can go away from God and do, instead of needing to cling to God continually and not understanding. At least, I see that in myself.

    But if we are dissatisfied with a godly dissatisfaction that will lead us to find satisfaction in the character and person of God. So, what cravings are we feeding to become satisfied? That will tell us much about what is going on inside us. If prayer, reading God’s word, meditating on His works, and fellowshipping with His people whom He has brought into our lives are the things we do to answer our cravings for satisfaction–in short, seeking and being satisfied in God however that is manifested–then surely we will be satisfied. “Come, all who are thirsty” Jesus said.

    Greed is never satisfied (it always wants more, no matter how much you give it), and so likewise dissatisfaction is never satisfied if it is a dissatisfaction that seeks satisfaction in anything other than God Himself. The more you try to calm dissatisfaction by coming up with answers, intelligence, goals, accomplishments, intentions, plans–or anything else–the more the dissatisfactions grows larger and larger. It is a monster we cannot satisfy, or kill, by our cleverness.

    If the Israelites in the wilderness are an example we can draw a lesson from, it is that the answer to dissatisfaction is faith. In our flesh we think that the answer to dissatisfaction is knowledge: “If only I knew (what I should do, where I should go, etc) then I wouldn’t be dissatisfied.” But that mindset is the opposite of faith which doesn’t understand, doesn’t have it figured out, but does believe God, and is satisfied in that. (Oh, and how I do not live that truth!) So the satisfaction of faith is a paradox to our flesh–being satisfied in a person we know, but who is so great and mysterious that we cannot fully understand.

    I am not suggesting that this satisfaction is found in some formula of prayer, scripture reading, etc. A person could fulfill any formula and still be utterly far from God. The pharisees were good at that. What I am feebly trying to get at is that the answer to losing heart, spiritual sleep, dissatisfaction, ruts, and hopelessness is ultimately relational–the answer to dissatisfaction is ultimately found in the greatest friendship of all; with God. (Yes, we somehow got back to the topic of friendship!) Friendship is not built on a routine of activity by requirement–calling your friend every morning because you have too. Friendships flourish where mutual activity overflows from the heart. So I don’t prescribe certain spiritual activities to people as if somehow that kind of forced activity will give satisfaction or life. Not at all. But if a person has a vibrant “friendship” with God, it will overflow in a certain things (prayer, etc), and that friendship with God will also overflow in a spiritual satisfaction and life that liberates from ruts and hopelessness.

    So, stay spiritually awake, cast off hopelessness, and break free from your ruts–that we find in a vibrant friendship (fellowship/communion/etc) with God.

    There is a tension because we can be satisfied in God in this life, but we are never to be satisfied with the world or in the world. There is so, so, much in this world that we should not be satisfied in, or with. And we do ourselves, and God, a great disservice if we attempt to find satisfaction in, or with, those worldly things or situations. Rather, it is about finding satisfaction in something (Someone) else. In a way what we feel as the ruts of life are something like the static of living in this fallen world, the noise we have to fight through to hear God. (Mixing my metaphors here.)

    I don’t think all dissatisfaction is bad. But I do think we need to look at our dissatisfaction and consider where it is coming from, and what it is driving us toward–God, or something else?

    ******

    Also, whenever we are grappling with something that involves our feelings, it is very important to remember what we feel may not be what is true. There are lies of words–and lies of feelings. Get up on the wrong side of the bed, with the wrong feelings in your head, and the world can look a lot different because of how you feel. That is a trivial example, but it illustrates the truth that our feelings can be very untrustworthy. Your life feels stalled out. Maybe that is true–and that dissatisfaction should drive you to seek God, and your friendship with him. But maybe it is not true. Maybe Satan is just feeding you that feeling so that you will go through this time not rejoicing in God.

    We tend to despise the slow times in our lives. The bible doesn’t really record the slow times, only the moments of action, and this feeds our ideas that life should be like an action movie (well, okay, not literally but we do feel like life should be going from one great action to another). But even in the Bible it is those slow times which were crucial to the moments of action. Was Jesus stagnating for thirty odd years? No, we know he wasn’t stagnating because we were told that he “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). But I am sure as far as doing “great things” that we can see it looked like stagnation! Jesus wasn’t going out and changing the world for those three odd decades of his life. That’s a lot of time to waste! But it was in all that time that Jesus grew into the man he was to be, and only then blazed for those three years of ministry. Or take David. Caring for sheep? What a waste of time and energy. That is where they stuck the youngest brother to do the unimportant work away from the real action. And so there is where David sat until the day God called him away. Were those years of a shepherd wasted? No, that was God preparing David. Or take Paul. He Had a roadside conversion, and then went off for several years in Arabia (Gal. 1:17-18). Scripture doesn’t say any awesome things he did. Such stagnation for a minister of God! But I am convinced that God used that time away from the lime light and action to prepare Paul for the years of ministry ahead.

    So yeah, its a deeply, deeply frustrating place to be in life. And nothing I say can take away that feeling. About all I can offer, is the encouragement that there is more going on in your life than you can see. Much more. Is the dissatisfaction and ruts you feel in your life goads to spur you on to seek God more? Could be. But it could be that instead (or, perhaps, as well) this feelings you face are here to teach you to not despise the day of small things. Perhaps you have been given this time so that in later days you will have the opportunity to look back and marvel at the mystery of God working so powerfully in your life even when you then felt most unable to see it. And so for yourself will become true the words “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice” (Zechariah 4:10).

    There is more going on in our lives that we can see, and the fact that we can’t see doesn’t mean nothing is happening. There is comfort in that, if we grasp it by faith. The small years, and the quiet times (or seemingly unfruitful times) are used powerfully by God for it is then in such times that God plants many seeds which require time to bear fruit years later.

    I know that isn’t an answer, and it doesn’t make all the struggle go away. I wish it did. But, for my life, the answer to your questions, “what has helped you to break out of spiritual ruts? […] Tell me, how do you keep from losing heart? How do you stay spiritually awake?” has always been “Beholding God” but the practical way that has worked in my life has varied so much that about all I can say is that if you call to Him he most certainly will answer you (Isaiah 58:9). The answer will come, but if it tarries, wait for it (Habakkuk 2:3).

    Sometimes, the best word in these times is, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (I find all of Psalm 27 very encouraging for times like you describe.)

    Okay, I’ve probably wandered in circles enough with this comment.

  2. There is so much here. Thank you

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